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Survey: Citizens want recycling program

Lawton residents want a recycling program and many are willing to pay for it.

That information was confirmed by about 1,000 residents who took part in a survey  mostly online  that City of Lawton officials conducted over the fall. It also is information that members of a City Council study committee are weighing as they analyze recycling options, said Ward 6 Councilwoman Cherry Phillips, whose interest in recycling dates to the 1970s. Phillips pushed for community recycling as a Lawton resident and now, as a representative for west Lawton, she is among the more vocal council members who are pushing the city to create some type of recycling program after canceling the existing program in 2015.

Until mid-August, Lawton had relied on recycling stations in several city-owned locations and those bins were well-used. However, city officials say they became too used much as some residents turned the bins into trash cans. Rather than limiting debris to materials that can be recycled, some were dumping household trash that contaminated recyclables, meaning none of it could be used. So, rather than collecting the materials for recycling, the city's contractor was hauling the materials to the city landfill, in effect duplicating efforts the city's solid waste division already handles.

In July, the council agreed with a staff recommendation to cancel its recycling contract, then directed its recycling committee to analyze options. The work has included sending out RFP (requests for proposals) to companies that specialize in recycling; launching an analysis of recycling options (such as curbside bins for each resident); and initiating a survey of residents to see exactly what they want and whether they even were interested in recycling.

Phillips said while she wasn't exactly pleased with the format of the survey  most responses came from the city's website, while she wanted to sent survey forms to residents via utility bills to obtain responses from a wider variety of residents  she does believe the survey reveals crucial statistics that she and other members of the recycling committee will use as they continue to explore options. She said there is continued interest in recycling: Council members have said citizen outcry was swift and loud when they ended recycling stations in August.

But the question for council members has become what will citizens support and exactly what can the city afford in a budget year that is expected to be tight because of falling revenues.

"We want to recycle," Phillips said, noting that while the existing system wasn't working, it is evident the city needs to restore some type of recycling.

She said the responses of the survey were encouraging.

Of the 854 residents who answered the question about whether they recycle, 66.86 percent said yes. When queried about why they recycle, 77 percent of those respondents said it was because they wanted to preserve natural resources, while 80 percent said they wanted to do their part to save the planet.

Phillips, who continues to extensively research recycling and trends, said she was startled, but pleased, by the number of residents who want to recycle, especially those who want to preserve natural resources.

"That is the purpose of recycling," she said.

She also was surprised by the reason people don't recycle. While respondents offered a variety of reason  inconvenience outweighs benefits, for example  Phillips said the No. 1 reason was that residents don't have space at home to store recyclables (coming in a strong second: people either don't know what to do with the materials or the city no longer has a recycling program).

Another important statistic  and one that Phillips said could be used to support the idea of city recycling  was the estimate of how much of what residents throw away could be recycled. For 32.35 percent of respondents, that total was 50 to 75 percent of their household trash. The overwhelming response of respondents who were asked whether communities should establish a recycling program, even if it costs more than burying the material in landfills, was yes.

"Ninety-two percent said we should establish a recycling program, even if it costs more," Phillips said.

The Lawton Constitution

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