It all started when...
In 2009, I was working in Seattle, WA as a department manager for Cleanscapes, a major trash and recycling hauler in the area. In addition to learning about the industry, I developed a passion for it. That passion often came home, where little Emily (6) had her imagination set on fire about recycling. One morning, Emily came to me and said, “Daddy, I want to clean up the world.” I quickly learned, that her “world” was the side of the road from our house to her school. So, starting one Saturday, she and I took a trash bag and walked along the road collecting trash until our bag was full. The first time we didn’t get very far. But we went every Saturday morning. After about two months, we finally made it all the way to her school before the bag was full.
One Saturday, after Emily and I had already picked up trash, we were driving away from our home on an outing. Marcia and I were talking in the front seat, and Emily was strapped into her car seat in the back. Amidst the quiet discussion between Marcia and me, Emily erupted, “WHAT ARE PEOPLE DOING? WE JUST CLEANED ALL THIS!” Turning to look at her, she was glaring out the window, her pointed finger indicating a small plastic bottle on the side of the road.
Once I’d gotten the “recycling bug” I wanted to do more. I looked for a niche, and found one…in my home town of Tahlequah. After many late discussions with experts and family members, I formed the company Tahlequah Recycling Incorporated.
The constitution of the state of Oklahoma provides that municipalities directly decide which entities can haul wastes within their borders. So, I got on the Tahlequah city council agenda, flew to Oklahoma, and got permission for a pilot program of up to 50 customers. I built a Facebook page and started building a waiting list. Marcia built a customer payment system on our computer. My mother purchased our first fifty recycling bins. And, my father and I built and painted the first TRI recycling equipment…an eight-foot plywood trailer. The first months of the program, Marcia and I still hadn’t left Seattle, so my parents collected all the recycling on the route then. Our apartment in Seattle had a large map of Tahlequah in the hallway, dotted with little red push pins. Every Saturday morning, I’d start getting texts from my mother, telling me what containers were out, full, and how many they had left.
In June 2010, I flew to Oklahoma again and requested permission to expand the program. We also set up our first Material Recycling Facility, MRF. It was a humble unused end of a poultry house. It had a dirt floor, a downstroke baler, a forklift, and several large boxes on pallets.
By the time we moved to Oklahoma in July, Marcia and I had nearly two hundred containers to deliver for the program expansion. Since then, we acquired Kermit from a trash hauler in Wisconsin. (in February no less…quite a cold drive) Since then, we’ve upgraded to a much larger baler, one that makes half-ton blocks of cardboard. We’ve also expanded our service. We began a pilot program in Stilwell, a free commercial cardboard program in Tahlequah, and another regular collection route in Muskogee.
Since then, we have recycled over two THOUSAND tons of paper, cardboard, plastics, metals, and even glass. We’ve worked with nearly every school in the area, as well as hundreds of businesses. Every week, Kermit the green garbage truck, plies the streets of Tahlequah, collecting recycling.