B.A. Trash Plans Still in Works

Contributing Writer

GROWING GREEN: Employee Shane Bonnstetter sorts glass at the MET (Metropolitan Environmental Trust) in Broken Arrow. The Broken Arrow location is the busiest MET center in Oklahoma and surrounding states, says Michael Patton, MET executive director.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Over the past five months, Broken Arrow residents have spoken. The city has held five ward meetings since the beginning of the year with a total of 600 residents attending. Their purpose was to learn and voice their concerns about the city’s proposed refuse collection plan.

The proposed cart-based, pay-as-you-throw system has met with many objections, most of them surrounding the use of carts.

Many residents worry that carts will remain on the streets at the end of the day or that, with Oklahoma’s heavy winds, carts will end up at the end of someone else’s street. Many are concerned about the elderly who may find the carts too heavy to maneuver. Others object to the extra cost required to modify current trash trucks to change to a semi-automated system.

Overall, most Broken Arrow citizens simply want to leave the trash system as it is.
Therefore, the city council voted to set the issue aside until January 2013. This will allow the city time to conduct additional research and consider resident suggestions.

“We have a fantastic trash service in Broken Arrow,” says Broken Arrow Director of Communications Stephanie Higgins. “Pickup is twice a week, and rates are low compared to surrounding areas. The bags go out on the curb in the morning; they are gone by the afternoon. It’s clean and efficient.”

However, the trash system won’t be able to stay as it is for much longer.
The city is losing $500,000 each year with the current trash system. This is due to rising expenses, including gas prices, personnel costs and truck maintenance.

“We need a more cost-efficient trash system,” says Higgins. “This could mean not changing the current service, except for decreasing pickup to one day per week and raising rates to make up the cost difference.”

A more cost-efficient trash system could also minimize costs enough to allow the city to offer extra programs for free, such as recycling. “Our ultimate goal is to offer voluntary recycling at no cost,” Higgins says.

The new system was proposed for two reasons: to become more cost efficient and to create a means of single-stream recycling. Single stream means that residents can put all accepted recyclable items into one trash bag without sorting them.

“Around 2008, the city council began looking into ways for the city to become more ‘green’ and to diminish our carbon footprint,” Higgins says. “We are running out of room to put trash.”

Most residents are receptive to recycling.

In the future, the city will consider various recycling options, such as color-coated recycling bags, stickers to identify bags of recyclables or recycling carts.
Once a full-time city manager is appointed, there is discussion of creating a committee of residents to help to create a revised trash plan.

“We want a trash system that residents embrace,” Higgins says. “That’s why we talked to residents. But what we have now is no longer financially feasible.”
City officials also plan to watch as Tulsa begins its new system in September.
Tulsa’s cart-based system allots one 96-gallon recycling cart per household. “Recycling is a core component of Tulsa’s new system,” says Liz Hunt, senior marketing and media relations officer for Tulsa’s streets and stormwater department.

However, for individuals unable to physically handle refuse and recycling carts, the city will offer special backyard or extended backyard service.

Tulsa residents who live in small communities, such as apartment complexes or condominiums, have voiced concerns about their inability to store recycling carts.
“TARE (Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy) and the city are currently looking at other options for these communities,” says Hunt. “However, the whole idea behind the system is that the more you recycle, the less trash you will have to throw away, so you are able to downsize to a smaller refuse cart.”

Updated 07-15-2012

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