For the last few years, a group of individuals in Oklahoma have come together to promote the benefits of recycling, waste prevention and doing volunteer work in their community. Their name is the Tulsa Master Recyclers. The influence and impact they make in the community played a role in the recent addition of steel food and beverage cans to the Tulsa curbside program.

The program was started in 2008 by a city official with the initial purpose of encouraging residents to sign up for the curbside recycling program. Since then, it has expanded to several programs including a hope to make curbside service an automatic part of Tulsa’s trash plan rather then the current $2/month additional cost. Their presence in the community and their representation on the board of the Tulsa Recycling Association played an unofficial role in the addition of steel cans to their curbside program.

“The more materials accepted the better,” said Diana Askins, President and founding member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers.

Growing their curbside the same way they grew the program is just one of their many goals.

“There were only 12 in the initial class and four or five others that continued after,” said Diana Askins, President and a founding member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers. “They wanted to do something new and different and took over from there. There are around 50 active people now.”

To become a Tulsa Master Recycler you join a class for 10 weeks, 2 hours per week. These 20 hours of education allow attendees to talk about different kinds of recycling, materials and what’s on in Tulsa specifically. Those who finish the class commit to giving 30 hours of volunteer time annually.

“We can start programs in schools and surrounding areas to get the kids involved,” explained Diana. “Once you get the kids, you get the families.”

They also provide bins and work with planners for recycling events, encourage residents to bring their own bags to farmer’s markets and be a “Green Neighborhood.”

“Being a ‘Green Neighborhood’ will eventually be a contest between different neighborhood associations,” said Diana. “Certain things will get points, such as not putting motor oil down the drain and signing up for curbside recycling.”

“After a certain amount of points these neighborhoods would be able to tout themselves as being ‘certified green’”

Starting similar programs in other towns can seem overwhelming but Diana says anybody who needs help can ask them and they’d be happy to assist. “We are not just a recycling program, it’s about education.”

These masters are educating their town and hope it’ll create new masters in new towns too.