Atoka, Ok- The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) is providing a helping hand for the City of Atoka to go green in a mutually beneficial project.
The Choctaw Nation has assumed all recycling duties for the city of Atoka, according to Jason Lilley, recycling manager for the CNO Environmental Protection Service.
For an estimated three decades, according to city officials, Atoka has operated its own commercial route, picking up cardboard from various businesses, which would be taken to a city facility and baled, then sold. But in recent years, it is a service which has continued to grow in cost and produce less revenue, said Atoka City Manager Danny Delay.
In November 2020, Delay approached Lilley about CNO taking over the responsibility of recycling for the city. By October of 2021, Delay’s idea became a reality.
Lilley said the city had two trailers used to store and haul other material, such as paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles. The Choctaw Nation has replaced those trailers with a set of “roll-offs,” or steel containers for drop-off donations. With the expansion, CNO was able to hire an additional recycling collector to run the route to commercial clients. The planned three-day per week pickup service in Atoka had already expanded to four days in the first month with an average of more than 5,000 pounds of materials collected each week.
“Atoka and the city manager have been great to work with,” said Lilley.
Delay, noting that the city is no longer losing money on the project, the environment is being improved, and jobs added for the Choctaw Nation, said, “It has been a win-win situation.”
Cardboard is the primary material, but a host of other recyclables can be collected. Lilley said, “One advantage the Choctaw Nation offers is we can accept all materials we take on a normal basis, along with the cardboard pickups.”
Eleven years after the Choctaw Nation began its recycling program, it now maintains 120 collection sites open to the public throughout the reservation and two recycling centers, in Durant and Poteau. It is a service that southeast Oklahoma communities are responding to well. Lilley said, in fiscal year 2021, nearly 4.8 million pounds of recycled material came through the CNO Recycling centers, and 2022 is on track to exceed that. More jobs were created, too, with the CNO Recycling team growing from 15 to 17.
Businesses interested in recycling assistance or information may contact Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Environmental Protection Service by phoning (580) 920-0488 or visiting www.choctawnation.com/recycling.