, Muskogee, OK

March 17, 2013

Tahlequah-based firm plans to start Muskogee curbside recycling program

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A Tahlequah-based company plans to test the water in Muskogee to see how receptive residents here are to the idea of curbside recycling.

 Josh Hutchins, who owns Tahlequah Recycling Inc., said he considered entering the Muskogee market a few years ago. When the market for recyclable materials “hit a bad spell,” Hutchins focused his efforts in Tahlequah, where the company picked up 449 tons of recyclable materials last year.

“We thought we would stick our toes in the water in Muskogee and got our legs wet,” Hutchins said about the company’s initial efforts to sign up customers in Muskogee. “We set a threshold of getting 100 customers to start. Within a week we had 80.”

Hutchins said he would like to begin running a recycling route in Muskogee sometime in April. For $15 a month, residents here would be provided a recycling container that would be picked up twice a month. Hutchins said customers can commingle recyclable materials in one container.

Tahlequah Recycling accepts clean and dry paper and cardboard, all metals except sharp objects, and plastics identified by codes one, two and four. The company accepts no glass or Styrofoam.

City Attorney Roy Tucker said a contract with Waste Management of Oklahoma, which operates the local landfill, appears to allow for services such as those Hutchins hopes to offer. The contract, which city councilors approved in October, provides all acceptable wastes generated within the city be delivered to the landfill. Tucker said it appears to make an exception for presorted wastes reserved for recycling programs.

Ward I Councilor Lee Ann Langston said she approached city administrators shortly after she was elected about the possibility of establishing a curbside recycling program. Langston said she was told the idea had been explored but proved to be cost prohibitive.

After receiving a number of inquiries from constituents about establishing a curbside recycling program, Langston said she and others started looking at other options. Those efforts turned up Hutchins’ business in Tahlequah.

“I have recycled for years — I take it to the city’s recycling center myself,” Langston said. “It is much more convenient to have it picked up at the curb, and I probably would do a better job of recycling if it’s being picked up on a regular basis.”

Langston said as of Wednesday night, 92 residents had signed up with Tahlequah Recycling for curbside service in Muskogee. She hopes the 100-subscriber threshold will be met soon.

Hutchins said his company has 550 customers in Tahlequah and 20 in Stilwell. The recycled goods are picked up at the curb during regular routes and then taken to his business southwest of Tahlequah for sorting. Most of the sorted recyclable materials are sold through brokers for reuse. Some of paper is sold to a Pryor company that makes construction-grade felt paper.

“I think this is a win-win for everybody — those who want to do it can, but it is not being mandated,” Langston said. “I am hopeful people will see this as a great convenience. This will help keep our landfill from filling up so rapidly.”

Hutchins said the easiest way to sign up for curbside service is to register on the company’s website, which can be found at Those who have no Internet service may call Hutchins at (918) 316-5856.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or