Beginning last October the city of Tulsa, OK began collecting yard waste in a separate curbside collection service to complement trash and recycling pickups. The program began with the goal of turning all of the city’s discarded yard waste into mulch. However, as far back as January the city’s Trash Board realized that the equipment at their mulching plant couldn’t open the plastic bags that residents were instructed to fill with their yard waste.

Oklahoma yard waste

Mulch made from shredded yard waste.

The board’s solution was to instead send all of the yard waste to the city’s trash incinerator. However, the Trash Board was still charging residents an additional $1.09 per month to dispose of yard waste separately so that it could be turned into mulch. But really all of that extra effort to separate the debris was for nothing as it ended up in the same incinerators used to burn regular trash.

So by the time the story broke, last week, residents of Tulsa were fuming over the disingenuous practices of the Trash Board and the City Council. The Trash Board’s chairman had to work quickly to allay concerns over the revelations. He announced an overhaul of the city’s yard waste collection services, putting several different proposals on the table. One such proposal is to renegotiate the city’s contract with NeWSolutions, which already handles the bulk of the city’s waste disposal services. The new contract would make NeWSolutions responsible for hauling yard waste, in addition to trash and recycling.

However, the Trash Board has also put up a defense stating that they had no idea how many people would actually put their yard waste out for collection. That meant that they couldn’t put out contracts for local haulers to bid on since there was no data on overall demand for yard debris collection services. Therefore they did not have the proper facilities in place to efficiently process the yard waste they did collect, thereby justifying the use of the incinerator. It has been stated by the board that they planned to measure the disposal rate for a year, after which they could open up bids to waste haulers.

Despite the Trash Board’s efforts, local residents won’t soon forget the board’s actions. And as a new mayoral election looms on the horizon, the flames from the city’s trash incinerator will undoubtedly fuel a heated debate.

Source: Tulsa World