Recycling in the City of Nichols Hills
At present, the City does not offer a recycling program. Over the past decade, the City has pursued various recycling programs, none of which have borne long-term success.
Prior to 2008, the City provided paper recycling bins behind City Hall and a Recycling Committee regularly met with City Administration to develop a more comprehensive recycling program. In 2008, the City Council created the Nichols Hills Environment, Health and Sustainability Commission, whose mission was to create a Nichols Hills Municipal Sustainability Plan, which would involve a plan for a recycling program. Shortly thereafter, in 2009, the paper bins were relocated to the City’s Public Works facility, and additional recycling bins were added for plastic, cardboard, and glass. Unfortunately, the deposit of contaminated and un-recyclable trash materials in these bins became a regularity, whereby entire bins would have to go to the dump, rather than sold for recycling. To address this, in 2012 the City dedicated employees to monitor the site and established set recycling hours. Unfortunately, much trash would accumulate outside the recycling facility overnight, and during the day much contamination still found its way into the recycle bins. In February of 2013, the City had to close the facility due to an overabundance of trash and contamination and residents were urged to take their recyclables to two (2) nearby Goodwill locations.
As the contamination issue became apparent, the City began conversations with a private company to provide house-side recycling services to residents for a monthly fee. This company operated from November of 2012 to July of 2013. It was discontinued due to a combination of a lack of participation by the residents, contamination of trash in recycling bags, and an over-abundance of recyclable materials on the market following the 2013 Moore tornado. These factors rendered the recycling program economically unviable for the company to continue to operate.
In 2017, the City sought proposals for a house-side recycling program. A third-party company offered to provide house-side recycling; however, in order for it to be economically feasible for the company, and to avoid the contamination issues of the past, the program would have to be mandatory for all citizens, would require additional third-party staff to pre-sort recycle bins for contamination, and would cost $27.50 per month, per citizen, for one bin. Residents overwhelmingly objected to the cost of the proposal, so the Council decided against moving forward with it. In the meantime, residents were encouraged to continue to take their recyclable materials to nearby locations such as Goodwill. Unfortunately, the two Goodwill locations nearest to the City discontinued recycling in July of 2018.
The City continues to explore options but has not yet identified a workable solution. While surrounding communities may have recycling programs, this is a particularly difficult time for cities to be starting new recycling programs, primarily because of the changing global recycling industry. In 2017, China, the world’s large consumer of recyclable materials, enacted very strict requirements for the acceptance of recycled plastics, which collapsed recycling markets worldwide. On May 1, 2018, China suspended all imports of U.S. recycled materials until June 4, 2018. Consequently, cities with existing recycling programs are also experiencing increased rates, risk of substantially higher rates in the near future, and an alarming amount of recyclable materials being taken to landfills.
Attempting to solve our City’s recycling needs in the midst of this global issue is quite a challenge; however, the City has not given up on thinking about the issue and will continue to explore options that are economically viable, have buy-in from the community, and actually result in materials being recycled. In the meantime, citizens are encouraged to focus on the other two legs of the Three R’s of the Environment: Reduce and Reuse your waste materials as much as possible. Also, you may take recyclable materials to WM Recycle America, located 5519 NW 4th, Oklahoma City, OK 73127, which has 24-hour bins accepting plastic, paper, and glass.
Some good resources for the global recycling issue can be found at the following links: