The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 5, 2014

Enid lags in recycling world

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid’s only consumer products recycling center ships out 3.3 million pounds of cardboard, plastic, aluminum, clothes, paper and other materials each year.

That translates to roughly two semi-trucks per week full of bales compressed in the facility’s machines. That might sound like a lot, but Chris Feeney says there’s a long way to go.

Other cities, even smaller ones, have a higher participation rate, he said.

“Enid’s a little more challenging. As progressive of a town as this is, we’re way behind. And we’re way behind most other cities in Oklahoma,” said Feeney, who serves as director of OES Information Destruction and Material Recovery.

Feeney noted that recycling was popular in the 1990s and then waned in the next decade. Now, participation is rising again.

“Predominantly, people are recycling more. Enid is where I’ve got to educate and get those numbers up,” he said.

DHS-Enid connection

OES is a facility owned and operated by the Department of Human Services and staffed by developmentally disabled DHS clients. It operates in partnership with the city of Enid, which owns some of the equipment there.

One of the balers owned by the city broke down last week, and the city was able to fix it within a day. Meanwhile, a mountain of cardboard piled up nearly to the ceiling because it couldn’t be compacted – a testament to the amount of material that goes through the facility each day.

Enid used to collect recyclables during its regular trash routes and drop it off at OES, but discontinued the practice in 2002. Enid Public Works Director Jim McClain said it just wasn’t cost-effective for the city. Feeney now owns and operates a recycling pickup service that brings the materials to OES.

“All those materials are donated here so that we can use those revenues to employ more people with disabilities. It’s kind of a win-win all the way around,” Feeney said.

‘We’ll see’

About half of the business at OES is confidential paper shredding. The facility also is certified for electronic media destruction. Feeney has specialized staff who are trained and vetted to work in the secured area. He has about 600 customers, which include government clients.

The facility’s future is unclear, however, after two decades in operation. Because OES has ties to NORCE, which is expected to close this year, the state could end the recycling center’s operations.

“We’ll see. This place will either close or change hands. I’m not sure which,” Feeney said. “All the recycling in town is contingent upon whether we continue.”

A DHS spokeswoman said Friday that the state and the city of Enid are in talks about the building and equipment.

“Our goal is to have a community service provider enter into an agreement with the city to complete the recycling,” Kevan Goff-Parker said.

At OES, the developmentally disabled can draw a decent wage to supplement support from the state.

“This is their primary means of income and a job, so we’re definitely hoping something like this can continue so that all those jobs aren’t lost,” Feeney said.