By JOSH NEWTON
Spring cleaning often involves getting rid of items that can harm the environment, if not disposed of properly. This is especially true if the item contains chemicals or other materials that do not decompose.
A community cleanup day was held Saturday, April 13, offering local residents two locations in Tahlequah to drop off everything from typical household trash waste to hazardous items like used automobile oil, tires, batteries, computers, televisions and other discarded electronics.
The Tahlequah Solid Waste Transfer Station took in tires and chemicals, as well as common household trash, while Natural Evolution, a Tulsa-based electronic recycling company, set up a site in Felts Plaza for “e-waste” items like TVs, computers, keyboards, stereo equipment, fluorescent bulbs, smoke alarms and damaged cell phones.
Saturday’s event helped raise awareness about where people are supposed to take their trash, and also began steps to establishing a routine of recycling items other than paper or aluminum cans.
The day is about protecting the environment, said Tahlequah Transfer Station Superintendent Les Ford.
“Cleanup day is about getting things to go where they’re supposed to go, like your chemicals and tires,” he said. “Normally, we don’t accept a lot of this stuff. We’re accepting it today to get it in the right spot, so it doesn’t get pushed off in the country hollows. That’s where it’ll end up.”
Ford said people were bringing in the waste items that often end up in a ditch or other improper areas.
“We’re seeing exactly what we want to see,” said Ford. “This time around, we’re not seeing any outrageous stuff. We’re doing a lot of tires. We haven’t received a lot of chemicals this time around.”
Natural Evolution, which deals strictly with e-waste, has a service area of about 800 miles, said President Traci Phillips. Natural Evolution receives e-waste from Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, and Phillips said the problem of people dumping trash in areas not meant for garbage is widespread.
“It’s prevalent across the U.S,” said Phillips. “No place is spared. Electronics - it can all be recycled. We operate at a 98 percent recycle rate, and it’s all processed within the United States. Getting people into the habit of recycling is the biggest challenge. Making it as easy as possible for people to do it certainly contributes to the success of the program. It’s also the consistency. Tahlequah’s had a program, an e-waste program, for a number of years now.”
The biggest reason people need to recycle is to preserve natural resources, said Phillips.
“The fact is, we’ve got more people on the planet,” she said.
“More people on the planet consume more, and our rate of consumption exceeds our rate of resources.”