March 13, 2010
Tulsans prove recycling doesn't have to be boring
Tulsa recyclers are getting creative. It's not just about aluminum cans and plastic water bottles — recycling and reusing has become a way of life.
Here's what's going on with some newer recycling groups in Tulsa and what could lie ahead for the city's curbside recycling program.
Tulsa Master Recyclers
What began as a series of classes offered throughout Tulsa has become a nonprofit education program called the Tulsa Master Recyclers.
In 2008, the city offered the series as a way to glean interest from prospective volunteers, said Diana Askins, a certified Tulsa Master Recycler. The classes continued to grow, so the group gained its own nonprofit status and its own mission: education. It now has 29 members.
"The city has its curb-side program and the Metropolitan Environmental Trust has many events, so we wanted to do education," Askins said. "We can do programs with businesses or churches or at schools to start recycling programs."
To become a certified Tulsa Master Recycler, you must complete a 10-week course and volunteer 30 hours per year. The group also has associate members who volunteer before becoming certified.
She said the group has been involved with the Oklahoma Deposit Beverage Container Recycling Act, a 5-cent container deposit program proposal introduced to the state House and Senate. And it is working on developing a program for neighborhood associations called Be Green Neighborhoods.
"There's a lot of passion within the group," Askins
said, "which makes it nice to have people who are involved not just in name only."
When Kristen McCormick was laid off, she already had an idea brewing.
"I had lived in Houston and worked in a huge office building that barely recycled anything — they didn't even recycle paper," she said.
So after she lost her job as a geologist in late 2008, she decided to get into the recycling business herself. She founded The Recycling Revolution as a way for businesses and private communities, such as apartment complexes, to recycle.
McCormick provides her commercial clients with containers and then picks up their recyclables for them.
"We set up a pickup schedule with them, and the rest generally takes care of itself," she said. "It's a good way for management to take initiative to implement a program. A lot of people just don't know — there's a serious lack of knowledge (about recycling) at the workplace."
The Recycling Revolution takes plastic, all types of glass, aluminum, steel, alkaline batteries, cardboard and all types of paper. McCormick said recycling does not take that much extra effort.
"It's mostly about retraining your brain. It really doesn't take any extra time. I do it now without even thinking about it."
The city of Tulsa's curbside recycling program started in November 1999 and has 13,631 customers, representing 11.7 percent of its service customers, said Eric Lee, the city's Field Customer Services manager.
For $2 a month, customers may choose to put out recyclables to be collected twice a month in a provided container. The city allows paper, aluminum, glass and plastic containers with Nos. 1 or 2 printed on them.
But the city requires some effort — customers must sort paper separately and place it in a paper grocery bag, Lee said, "because paper can be contaminated with fluids from different containers. Paper has to come in dry."
Some customers have complained about being required to pay for recycling over the years.
"We hear a lot from people moving here from the East or West coasts that (recycling is) part of their refuse systems," he said. "It's always a bit of a shock for them when they come here and it's something extra that they have to pay for."
But in 2012 the city's refuse collection contract will come up for the first time since 1979. In the meantime, Lee said the city of Tulsa and the Tulsa Authority for Recovery of Energy are looking at their options.
"They're looking at a collection system for the future that may include a more involved recycling component," he said. "Right now, they collect (recyclables) twice a month, but maybe it would be every other week or even every week. Or, maybe it could be included for all customers at the regular rate."
Residents are being asked to join the discussion about the refuse collection contract at public meetings. The first one is set for residents of District 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on March 22 at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 S. Peoria Ave.
Other meetings are still in the works. For updates, visit tulsaworld.com/cityoftulsa.
A recycling how-to
Interested in recycling more than bottles and cans? Here are some innovative ideas from Tulsa recyclers on how to recycle and reuse many household items:
* Old T-shirts cut on the bias can be used as “yarn” to knit a scarf.
* Old windows can be re-used in another person’s house.
* Cut old jeans into squares and make a quilt.
* Line drawers with old pages out of magazines.
* Wash long straws from convenience store soft drinks in the dishwasher and reuse.
— Becky Bowles, Tulsa Master Recycler
* Use vegetable oil containers to cart compost outside for your garden.
* Dry wall buckets and paint buckets also make good buckets for composting and gardening.
* Use aluminum cans and other items to make signs and banners for sales, birthday parties and to promote an event.
— Kristen McCormick, founder, The Recycling Revolution
* Sew juice boxes together and make tote bags.
* Save twist ties for tying up plants.
* Crib bed springs can be used as supports for climbing plants.
* Old, wood furniture can be set in a flower garden, spray-painted bright colors and used as decoration, allowing plants to grow through and on.
— Peggy Pianalto, Tulsa Master Recycler
* Start seeds in empty yogurt cups.
— Sarah Mouttet, Tulsa Master Recycler