ATOKA – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is helping the city of Atoka go green through a mutually beneficial project.
The Choctaw Nation has taken on all the recycling duties for the city of Atoka, according to Jason Lilley, recycling manager for the CNO Environmental Protection Service.
According to city officials, for about three decades, Atoka operated its own trade route, picking up cardboard from various businesses, which would be transported to a facility in the city and baled, then sold. But in recent years, it’s a service that has continued to rise in cost and produce less revenue, said Atoka City Manager Danny Delay. In November 2020, Delay approached Lilley about CNO taking over responsibility for recycling for the city. In October 2021, the idea of Delay became a reality.
Lilley said the city has two trailers used to store and transport other materials, such as paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles. The Choctaw Nation replaced these trailers with a set of “roll-offs” or steel containers for dropped off donations. Thanks to the expansion, CNO was able to hire an additional recycling collector to make the trip to commercial customers. The scheduled three-day-a-week pick-up service in Atoka had already increased to four days in the first month with an average of more than 5,000 pounds of material collected each week.
“Atoka and the city manager have been great to work with,” Lilley said.
Delay, noting that the city is no longer losing money on the project, the environment is improving and jobs have been created for the Choctaw Nation, said, “It’s a win-win situation.”
Cardboard is the main material, but a host of other recyclable materials can be collected. Lilley said, “One of the benefits of the Choctaw Nation is that we can accept any materials that we pick up on a normal basis, as well as cardboard pickups.”
Eleven years after the Choctaw Nation launched its recycling program, it now maintains 120 collection sites open to the public throughout the reservation and two recycling centers, in Durant and Poteau. This is a service to which communities in southeastern Oklahoma respond well. Lilley said that in fiscal year 2021, nearly 4.8 million pounds of recycled materials passed through CNO recycling centers, and 2022 is on track to surpass that. Other jobs were also created, with the CNO Recycling team growing from 15 to 17.
Businesses interested in recycling assistance or information may contact the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Environmental Protection Department by calling 580-920-0488 or visiting www.choctawnation.com/recycling.