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The Truth about Recycling in Tulsa

The Truth about Recycling in Tulsa

Written by Jake Sherman

Green Teens Curbside Recycling, LLC.

Photos provided by American Waste Control, Inc., and

Don't let someone tell you that your recycling isn't getting recycled!

I'm publishing this article to help increase Tulsa resident's knowledge of recycling in Tulsa! This way, when someone suggest that you are wasting your time by trying to recycle, you will be able to pass on some information that might enlighten them. Recently people have started questioning how much of the recycling material is actually getting processed. I think this was partially spawned by a national news story that highlighted many of the current struggles that the Recycling industry is facing in the U.S. The true answer is that the amount of recycling material being processed varies by each area and the local recycling infrastructure.

The recycling landscape is a complex one, and it's crucial to debunk misconceptions surrounding recycling efforts in Tulsa. By shedding light on the local recycling infrastructure, we can empower ourselves with knowledge and dispel any doubts about the effectiveness of our recycling initiatives. It's vital to remember that the success of recycling efforts varies according to geographical locations and the unique challenges each region faces.


Understanding Recycling in the U.S.

I think the best way to help someone get a better understanding about recycling as a whole is to understand two aspects:

1) Recycling is an Industry:

Make no mistake, recycling isn't a perfect system. Recycling is a noble endeavor, but it's an industry and it's not exempt from challenges. Sometimes it's just that it's too expensive to recycle a specific type of material for different reasons. Each recycling facility has a unique set of geographical challenges. The cost of logistics play a major role. Sometimes the market price for materials is too low and recycling facilities fill up and have to stop accepting material until the prices being paid for the materials come back up. The market pricing is always moving up or down due to supply and demand.

2) Logistics in each area play a big part in Recycling

Just like every other industry it has issues related to supply and logistics. For example, If a city has to travel too far to deliver glass, then it can become uneconomical to accept that glass. However here in Tulsa, we have a glass plant in Muskogee so our glass can be collected and transported a short distance. Some west coast states have been forced to take some of their plastic to the landfill due to poor local market conditions. All areas face challenges that may be specific to their area.

Issues with Plastic

Plastics: plastics are categorized into #1,#2,#3,#4,#5,#6,#7. Most household plastics fall under #1, #2 and #5. Water and soda bottles(#1), Milk jugs and Laundry detergent jugs(#2) are some of the most common household plastics. It's estimated that #1,#2 and #5 make up over 99% of the household plastic.

In many areas the other less common household plastics are not accepted at the recycling centers because they can not be collected and sold in high enough quantities or they have too high of a transportation cost involved.

photo from:

Flexible Film Plastics (Cellophane Wrapping)

These types of plastic create a more unique problem because they get caught up in the conveyor systems at the sorting facilities. This is why most recycling facilities will not accept this type of plastic.

As an alternative, Walmart has expanded their plastics that they will accept at their local stores. Here is a picture of one of their collection receptacles.


Recycling in Tulsa

Here in Tulsa you will be happy to hear that a large portion of your material is actually getting processed and used in making new material! This is largely due to the awesome new sorting facility called the TRT (Tulsa Recycling & Transfer Inc ) owned by American Waste Control, Inc.

Last year they opened a new sorting facility with completely new equipment, after a fire destroyed a large portion of their sorting facility. This new facility can now process material faster and more of it! It incorporates several new Robots and Optical Sorters.

"95% of the recyclables delivered to TRT stay in the State of Oklahoma. The State has a vast MFG infrastructure that uses recyclables to produce the packaging a product is placed in or a product we all use everyday. As an Oklahoma company, it's our core value to support Oklahoma jobs and the MFG's creating those jobs first. The recyclables without an end user in Oklahoma, stay in the U.S. " (Robert Pickens - American Waste/TRT)

Groups can schedule a tour of this new facility. They can get a first hand look at how their recyclables are separated and bundled for shipment to end markets. Their website also has an education video showing the process.

New Recycling Automation has come to Tulsa

New automation is giving recycling an

upgrade. TRT's got some slick tech in play, making the whole process more efficient and eco-friendly. It's like recycling's stepping into the 21st century with style! The new tech includes robots and optical sorters that can sort materials. faster and more accurately than older technologies!

Hers is a video of a robot sorting material:

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it, more information on recycling in Tulsa. Remember, it's not a one-size-fits-all deal; recycling has its own rhythm in every nook and cranny of the country. Armed with this knowledge, you're now the recycling champ, ready to debunk myths and spread the word about Tulsa's recycling scene. Keep those bins full, and let's keep our planet green, one plastic bottle at a time!

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