When recycling is mentioned, the most common items thought of are newspaper, plastic milk jugs and aluminum cans. But would you have thought of used batteries from toys and autos? Mercury thermometers? Yard waste? Old computers or cell phones? Motor oil? Antifreeze? Comprehensive recycling programs touch on many of these items ─ many of which have a direct link to protecting water quality.

Batteries contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium that are very toxic in small quantities. If thrown into ditches or on the ground, the batteries leak their contents which end up in local streams. As we all know, old fashioned mercury thermometers easily break, releasing elemental liquid mercury. Mercury is extremely toxic even in very low quantities. When these drops of mercury are simply discarded in the trash, they can easily end up in the environment.

Yard waste, such as bags of grass clippings and leaves, when dumped into storm drains or creek channels, clog drainage systems. Their residue, which decomposes in the damp drainage systems, cultivates a variety of organisms that are flushed out with every rain. The decomposition of this organic matter can deplete oxygen in streams, harming fish and stream organisms.  Decomposition also elevates bacteria levels in storm drains that get flushed into local creeks and ponds after rain events.

Fluids from cars and trucks such as motor oils and antifreeze are frequently disposed of improperly into the environment. Antifreeze is particularly toxic, and oils contain a variety of chemicals harmful to aquatic life.

In the Tulsa area, the Metropolitan Environmental Trust (M.e.t.) operates many permanent recycling centers that take a variety of items mentioned above. Visit the M.e.t. website to learn more about recycling in the Tulsa area. Some of the GCSA municipalities operate their own local recycling centers. Please contact your local city or county official for local recycling information.