By DANIEL C. CAMERON
DELIGHTED VOLUNTEER: Volunteers unload and sort household hazardous waste from a neighbor.
DANIEL C. CAMERON for GTR Newspapers
In the 1980s, there was a prevalent thought around the nation that landfills were going to close and a solid waste crisis was inevitable. Several cities around the Tulsa metro met to address the issue. The group decided to form a plan to deal with Tulsa’s solid waste and to create a trust authority to manage the plan. The group was originally called the Northeast Oklahoma Solid Waste Management Association. In 1987 the Metropolitan Environmental Trust was formed.
In the mid 1990s, recycling became popular as a way to handle solid waste. So the M.e.t. began building a network of centers around the area where residents could take their recycling. They began holding special events for certain types of waste disposal.
Today the M.e.t. is an organization based in downtown Tulsa that works in concert with 10 local city governments and Tulsa County with a primary focus of managing solid waste in the area. These governments are paying members of the trust and money from the memberships goes to manage the M.e.t.’s operations and services.
The M.e.t. has 12 locations in seven cities around greater Tulsa where residents can recycle cardboard, newspaper, metal cans, plastics and a plethora of other materials. Locations are in Bixby, Broken Arrow, Collinsville, Coweta, Glenpool, Jenks, Owasso and Tulsa and are open 24 hours.
Twice a year the M.e.t. holds a hazardous waste drop off. Old medicines, automobile fluids, paint, mercury, cleaners, chemicals and more are all accepted at the event. In fact, the hazardous waste day was the first of its kind in the state. It is surprisingly efficiently run.
Patrons drive through the drop off area where volunteers in hazmat suits unload the waste from the vehicles. The materials are then sorted and distributed to the appropriate stations for proper handling and disposal.
The M.e.t. also holds a special annual phone book recycling event that has been so successful it is modeled in several other cities. It is called “Project ReDirectory.” The event is underway now until Dec. 22.
The desire to recycle is growing. However, how to recycle is not necessarily intuitive. The M.e.t. fills this need with an educational component. The M.e.t. teaches how to recycle and compost through presentations to people of all ages.
The M.e.t. publishes a superb Web site that is educational and easily navigated.
On the site, one can learn what is recyclable and what materials each station accepts. The Web site has a directory of all recycling locations in Green Country. The directory has a function where users can find a drop off for various types of recyclables. This type of functionality is important, because not all stations take every class of recyclable material.
While the primary focus of the M.e.t. is Solid Waste, “the M.e.t. is a regional authority with activities, fingers, answers on all kinds of environmental questions for the citizens. So if you don’t know about a spill or about a leak or about an option, if you have a computer you want to recycle, or if you want to talk about any air quality or water quality issues, you can call the M.e.t. and we’ll try to help you,” says Michael Patton, the M.e.t.’s executive director. He adds that they do not have all the answers, but they know who has the answers.
M.e.t. employees consider themselves on retainer to the area. They realize their services are valuable and want households and businesses to reach out when they need help.