Defining Trash Talk: Understanding the Lingo

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

DIRTY MRF: Holland Hall kindergartners look on as an American Waste hauler dumps trash in the sorting station of TRT’s dirty MRF location in Tulsa. A tractor driver pushes waste on to the conveyer belt, where it’s carried to workers who pull out recyclables and sort them into bins below.

BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers

There has been a lot of trash talk in Greater Tulsa lately, as the city recently unveiled its new trash plan. However, if you’re not obsessed with waste management like I am, much of the terminology and acronyms can be confusing. If you don’t know the lingo, how can you understand the local system and its upcoming changes? Fear not. Your Trash Talk columnist is here to cut through the confusion and give you an overall understanding of common, local trash terminology.

Terms Explained:

: Municipal solid waste. Whatever you throw away that a trash service hauls off within a city or urban area.

Landfill: Where most is taken. Landfills work by creating huge, concrete “bathtubs.” Each is filled then sealed, building mountains of compacted trash.

EfW: Energy-from-Waste: Referred locally as the Covanta Energy or Trash-to-Energy plant. Officially the Walter B. Hall Resource Recovery Facility ( ), Covanta Energy’s first project began here in Tulsa in 1986. According to its website, they process 1,125 tons of solid waste per day into steam, use the steam to power turbine generators to produce electricity which is then sold to Public Service Company of Oklahoma ().

Fly ash: Small particles of ash and soot, which are collected by pollution control devices during the incineration of solid wastes.

PM or Particulate Matter: A complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets. A number of components make up PM, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. The recognizes two types as health threatening: “Inhalable coarse particles,” such as those found near roadways and dusty industries and “Fine particles,” such as those found in smoke and haze.

: Materials Recovery Facility, which recovers recyclable materials from waste streams previously headed to the landfill or EfW.

Dirty : Trash is dumped in a pile, taken through an assembly line and recyclables pulled out. As its name promises, this is gross and dirty, and the system loses a lot of product.

Clean : Accepts recycled materials commingled only with other recyclables, and has been separated at the source (our homes, businesses, industries) from .

: Tulsa Recycle and Transfer station located in north Tulsa and represented by the character, “Mr. Murph.” Currently, this is a dirty location. Thanks to the new city contract, Waste Man-agement plans to move to a clean station by October 1.

Green Washing: Making some product or business sound like it incorporates “green” or eco-friendly practices while it really does not.

Greenwaste: Also known as yardwaste, this is what many people in urban settings bag and throw away after “cleaning up” outdoor areas: grass trimmings, leaves, branches, rock and dirt.
Opinion advisory: Instead of adding in with , these materials can be composted or taken to Tulsa’s free Greenwaste drop-off site at 10401 East 56 Street North. (Pick up free mulch or firewood while you’re there). Or, once Tulsa’s new curbside service begins, Greenwaste workers will come by and pick it up for you for 50 cents per bag/bundle and for free during fall months.

Biodegradable: Able to break down or decompose rapidly under natural conditions and processes. It’s important to note that things that are biodegradable, such as greenwaste, cannot do so in a landfill – no air gets to it in order for it to decompose.

Post-consumer recycling: Material that served its original purpose, captured from the waste stream and diverted into a new recycled product. For example, old plastic water bottles becoming soles of new shoes.

Pre-consumer or post-industrial recycling: Material generated from the making of an original product that is utilized into another product. For example, instead of throwing away the shavings from making a wooden chair, they get compressed into plywood.

Cradle-to-grave: A system that manages solid waste from creation to disposal. In product design, it refers to its creation from raw or recycled materials through manufacturing, use, consumption and disposal.

Cradle-to-cradle: An innovative system that takes solid waste from creation to creation. It refers to a product’s creation from raw or recycled materials through manufacturing, use, consumption, then turned back to recycled material.

As mentioned, this is a brief synopsis of trash phrases and acronyms. Please feel free to continue the conversation at TrashTalkTulsa, online at or For Tulsa’s curbside customers, don’t forget to register for your cart of choice by June 8 at

Updated 05-21-2012

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