By TEDDYE SNELL
As the United States looks to reduce its carbon footprint, recycling has gained popularity, and has taken hold in Tahlequah.
Today is America Recycles Day, and Josh Hutchins, owner of Tahlequah Recycling Inc., said he and his staff will be busy running routes this year.
“The past couple of years, we scheduled events to observe the day,” said Hutchins. “Two years ago, we spent the entire day at Greenwood Elementary School, talking to the students about recycling. Last year, we held an electronic recycling event, and collected about two tons of electronics. This year, to be honest, we’re not doing anything – not because we don’t want to, but because we just have more than we can cover.”
TRI offers recycling services for a monthly fee, and covers Tahlequah and most recently Stilwell.
“We collect about one to two tons per month from Stilwell, and it’s just a pilot program,” said Hutchins. “In Tahlequah, we collect 15 tons per week, which equals about 350 tons a year.”
Many in the area are familiar with “Kermit,” TRI’s blue and green recycling rig. According to Hutchins, Kermit is beginning to show some wear.
“We’ve just been running him ragged,” said Hutchins. “It’s a real testament on how ready Tahlequah was for recycling.”
All paper and cardboard collected by TRI goes to a mill in Pryor, where it’s made into tar paper for roofing. Plastic items are baled and sent to Springfield, Mo., where they’re separated and distributed throughout the Northeast Oklahoma.
“Using landfills and burning trash just runs contrary to conventional wisdom,” said Hutchins. “I think it’s safe to say we’ve saved our fair share of trees.”
Local residents Joanna Walkingstick and Pam Moore are TRI customers, and believe the service is well worth the monthly fee.
“We recycle everything possible, and our blue recycling bin has more stuff in it than our trash bin each week,” said Walkingstick. “We’ve used TRI for almost two years now, and in that time, our household has gone from six bags of trash in two bins, to three bags of trash in one bin with a packed recycling blue bin.”
Moore didn’t think she could justify the expense – at first.
“Since I am the only adult in my house, I did not think I would have enough to justify the extra cost,” said Moore. “Imagine my surprise to learn that fully half of my household waste is recyclable. I always have a full bin of recycle and more. If the city would contract with Tahlequah Recycle, then the cost could be reduced and included in our utility bills. That move would also reduce the cost the city pays in landfill fees.”
Diane Hammons likes the convenience of TRI.
“I’m happy to pay the $12 per month for curbside recycling,” said Hammons. “[It’s] very convenient, and they take most everything but glass. We now recycle about as much as we throw away. [I’m] very happy to do it.”
Lynn Howard believes people can be just as effective by doing their own recycling.
“Recycling is good, but I don’t think we should have to pay an additional $12 [per month] – or whatever it is now –for it,” said Howard. “We recycle as much as possible on our own but - call me cranky - I’m not paying extra for the privilege.”
Stilwell resident and Save The Illinois River member Kathy Tibbits also recycles.
“In Stilwell, there’s a strong community spirit for recycling,” said Tibbits. “I think it comes from folks still living intergenerationally, and it’s one of the good things that came out of The Great Depression, when folks were basically subsistence farming to survive and didn’t have a lot of commercial goods. People don’t want to be wasteful. That helps to make recycling a big deal here.”
Tahlequah Middle School participates in two separate recycling projects. One is led by the TMS Student Council, and the other by the TMS Science Club.
“We’ve been using Georgia Pacific to recycle paper for the past four years,” said TMS Student Council sponsor and sixth-grade teacher Nancy Geiger. “They pick up our paper every other Monday, and we have bins in every classroom and outside the administrative offices. We don’t get any money for it, we just do it to help our environment.”
TMS Principal DeAnn Mashburn said the Science Club recycles aluminum cans to help defray costs for materials and field trips. She has also noticed a reduction in paper consumption at the school.
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