Task Force Gets Green Waste Figures, Drafts Recommendations

Dec 17, 2013

City crews collected nearly 560,000 bags of green waste between November 2012 and October 2013, but that represents only 5–8 percent of Tulsa's total green waste stream.
Credit KWGS News File photo

Tulsa City Council's Trash Operations Task Force has a rough draft of the green waste recommendations it will present to the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy.

Among the task force's ideas are making collection less frequent and phasing out plastic bags in favor of paper bags or residents' own containers.

Kelly Markwardt told her fellow task force members making a real commitment to public education will make the biggest difference.

"Public education, I think, is — will be — will play a big part in this, because like you said, Tulsans, we want to be responsible with how we recycle and deal with our green waste," she said. "We want that, and I think citizens are willing to pay for that, then, if it's done responsibly."

The green waste program is partially funded by a 70-cent charge on water and sewer bills. Estimates say certain changes to the program could increase that charge to as much as $3.

Metropolitan Environmental Trust Executive Director Michael Patton agreed, adding that TARE has public education money built into its funding, but the task force must be clear with its recommendations.

"I mean, there's going to be clearly a need to continue education, but I think our recommendation from the task force is that green waste be one of those priorities in TARE's education plan," Patton told the task force.

Green waste accounts for about one-third of Tulsa's total waste stream. Roy Teeters with the city's storm water and land management division said that's more than a city study estimated, but the amount is normal.

"The original estimates, I think, ranged up to around 25 percent of the waste stream. We're figuring we're about the 35 percent," he said. "We're a little bit more than the original estimates, but we fit on the top end of the nationwide average."

City crews collected almost 560,000 bags of green waste from November 2012 to October 2013, but that's just a small portion of the green waste total.

Teeters said half of Tulsa's green waste is mixed in with regular trash, so it's picked up by trash hauler NeWSolutions. Residents bring another 45 percent or so directly to the city green waste site.

"And that leaves a small remainder of the entire stream of about five to eight percent that is actually put in bags and set at the curbside for pickup," Teeters said.

The city pays about $2.5 million a year for the green waste program. The task force will meet Jan. 7 and Jan. 14 to revise and approve its recommendations before presenting them to the TARE board at its Jan. 28 meeting.