City of Tulsa Seeing More Contamination in Recycling Bins

The City of Tulsa is seeing more recycling bins with contamination in them. Tulsa residents have had big blue bins since October of 2012 and the city says there has always been a problem of people putting the wrong items inside, but now it's getting worse.

City representatives said the contamination level went from 15 to 28 percent in the city's last audit of waste material.

"There is going to be a little bit of contamination and we try to monitor the percentage of contamination and there is an expectable amount and if it gets too high it becomes unacceptable," Land Management and Stormwater Manager Roy Teeters said.

Teeters said the first process in the audit is to check the loads on the floor of the recycling plant. Once that is done they conduct field audits where crews look inside the bins on the curb to see who is putting what in the bins.

Teeters said for the field audits they contacted 5,000 households and educated them on what they are doing right and wrong. He said there are some items they see every week that they shouldn't.

"We are mainly doing the papers and plastics and some times we will see garden hoses and strands of wire, which we are asking not to do and thin plastic bags that you get at the grocery store, they aren't really recyclable. You can see any kind of contamination," Teeters said.

You can recycle certain plastics, glass, paper, metal and cardboard boxes. But they do see residents trying to get rid of things like carpet and auto parts. The best advice is look at everything you are thinking about putting in the bins.

"If you really want to be serious about recycling, yes you should look at the number, most plastics have a number on them and that's what you should be looking at," Teeters said.

Teeters said the savings for the city for recycling is about 45 thousand dollars a month and they do expect the percentage of contamination to be lower within the month.

If the city finds items that are not recyclable in your bin, they will give you three warnings. If you don't do anything to resolve the problems, they'll repossess your bin.

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