The city of Norman’s 11-year-old hazardous waste collection event broke attendance records and took in more than 50,000 pounds of paint Saturday.

Event coordinator Debbie Smith attributed the high turnout at the Lloyd Noble Center’s parking lot to Mother Nature and an educated public.

“It was the highest turnout we’ve ever had … we had 1,691 cars come through,” Smith said. “I think that’s partly awareness and partly good weather.

“Last year we had a torrential downpour the whole day, which didn’t help attendance.”

As expected, paint was the most popular item. One man, who certainly wasn’t the only one, pulled up with his truck sagging it was packed so full of paint cans.

Some people even got to take something home from the disposal event.

“We gave away about 300 cans of paint,” Smith said. “Stuff that was good wasn’t wasted.”

In addition to paint, popular items included appliances, computers and other electronics, which were all recycled by local companies. Even old air conditioning wall units were drained of their precious freon.

Local law enforcement also collected prescription medication, which they said would be destroyed on location before the event was over.

Smith, environmental services coordinator for the city of Norman, said events like Saturday’s are important because hazardous waste frequently ends up in places it shouldn’t.

“Some people will pour it down the sink or take it to the landfill,” Smith said. “If you put things down the sink, it can harm the wastewater plant and the collection lines.

“Having the collection events keeps it (hazardous waste) out of the landfill … out of the river and out of the sanitation trucks.”

Smith said volunteers for an event like Saturday’s, which started early and ended late, are essential. She said about 100 workers, mostly students from Norman Public Schools and the University of Oklahoma, unloaded the equivalent of five cars per minute for six hours.

“We couldn’t do it without them (volunteers), it would be cost-prohibitive,” Smith said. “So, having them out there was huge, we’re very grateful to them.”

One patron of the collection event was grateful as well.

Norman resident Ron Jackson pulled up in a small pickup, cans of paint in all sizes brimming over the sides of his truck bed. He said it had been “more than 20 years” since he’d gotten rid of any paint.

His wife, he said, told him this was the year to dispose of the paint cans — or else.

“I’ve been building those up for years,” Jackson said as he watched volunteers haul off the dozens of cans of paint. “It feels good to get those out of my garage … out of my life.

“No more nagging about the paint.”

Andrew Knittle 366-3540 aknittle@normantranscript.com

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