Styrofoam recycling is a new addition to Norman's annual household hazardous waste collection event.
Churches Caring for Creation, a coalition of churches focused on environmentally green practices, will head a Styrofoam recycling station at the city's annual event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Lloyd Noble Center's southwest parking lot, 2900 Jenkins Ave.
Cathy Bowden, leader of University of Lutheran Church's green team and Churches Caring for Creation, said the goal is to get rid of Styrofoam in an environmentally friendly way.
University Lutheran is one of two churches that publicly accept Styrofoam for recycling at no cost to residents.
“It's been never-ending. It's wonderful,” she said about collections at the church's Styro Station, adding that she received a donation of 50 Styrofoam boxes two weeks ago from the University of Oklahoma biomed lab.
The station is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 914 Elm Ave. Residents are invited to drop off Styrofoam and pick up egg cartons, if needed.
Volunteers at the church sort, sack and drive the Styrofoam to the DART Container Co. in Ada. From there, it's sent to a company in Waxahatchie, Texas, where the Styrofoam is manufactured and broken down to its component parts — air and plastic — and shaped into other Styrofoam products, including frames and mock wood items.
Bowden said items can be used for products in luxury planes and cruise ships, because it's lightweight, and crown molding, which can be painted and stained.
She said the group chose to focus on Styrofoam because it was a product they used a lot at church.
Styrofoam is low cost, can insulate and is light weight, she said, but is made from non-renewable crude oil, depletes fossil fuel resources, never truly biodegrades and takes 500-plus years to begin to break down naturally.
“Styrofoam is a scurge on the environment,” she said. “It emits fumes when it is heated to a great degree and is toxic.”
The church group began discussing opening a Styrofoam recycling station at the end of 2018, but it didn't gel until January, Bowden said. The recycling station opened the first Sunday in April, and volunteers drove their first load of 18 bags to Ada on May 8.
“It's hard work,” she said, adding that they receive no money for their efforts.
Currently, University Lutheran volunteers have deposited 158 three-gallon bags to the DART facility, Bowden said.
St. Michael's Episcopal Church started recycling Styrofoam around June. Residents can drop off clean Styrofoam from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday via the church's front entrance at 1601 W. Imhoff Road.
Suzanne Moore, St. Michael's treasurer, said Styrofoam donations have been “coming in fast and furious.”
St. Michael's green team leader Tina Mahle said volunteers have delivered 50 30-gallon bags to the DART facility.
“We're trying to save the planet,” she said.
The church is a member of Churches Caring for Creation and will have volunteers present during the waste collection event, she said.
“Norman has embraced our pilot project. We're trying to get all of Norman in on this,” Mahle said.
Bowden said Churches Caring for Creation was created following GreenSpeak discussions University Lutheran hosted for the public.
The name of the group is a collective term for the 11 churches that have pushed green practices in their churches, including recycling, purchasing ecologically sound items and using green cleaning supplies. There is no membership or fee.
“We have one earth. There is no Planet B. We have been called to take care of what we have been given,” Bowden said.
She said the group has an agreement with U-Haul to provide a truck for the waste collection event and deliver recycled Styrofoam to DART in Ada for half price.
Bowden met with city officials earlier this year about including Styrofoam in the hazardous waste collection event. The request was approved during a City Council meeting Sept. 10.
Debbie Smith, city of Norman environmental services manager, said the waste collection event offers an opportunity to dispose of harmful items. However, reuse and decreasing the disposable products that we use should be stressed over recycling.
Currently, Smith said the city can't offer Styrofoam recycling due to the cost and a contractor agreement. However, she said, it's possible in the future, and the city is always pushing to increase the types of recyclables they can collect.
She said Styrofoam recycling has received a lot of support from the city. This could the last waste collection event the city hosts because of plans to open a permanent city-owned recycling center at the end of 2020 or early 2021.
Styrofoam must be marked with No. 6 in arrows, clean and contained in a sack or box. Any color food or beverage container or packaging will be accepted. Styrofoam not collected includes packing “peanuts” and building insulation. For more information, call 447-8289.
“We really want the public buy-in,” Bowden said. “The more we receive, the more likely the city is to offer it as a service in the future.”
For more information about the waste collection event, call 292-9731.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection
Norman’s annual household hazardous waste collection event is 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the southwest parking lot of the Lloyd Noble Center. Residents coming to the event need to enter from Jenkins or Chautauqua on the south side of Lloyd Noble Center. There is no charge to residents of Norman.
Residents wishing to participate need proof of residency and should bring products in their original containers. Chemicals shouldn't be mixed together.
Products not accepted include radioactive waste, explosives, yard waste, business-generated waste, compressed gas or containers, biomedical waste and household trash.
Accepted products include Styrofoam, automotive fluids, car batteries and NiCd batteries, computers and other e-waste, TVs, craft and hobby supplies, flammable solvents, household cleaners, medicine, sharps, paint, paint thinners and turpentine, pool chemicals; pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer; metal appliances such as refrigerators and more.
Free items that are available for pick-up include miscellaneous goods and unused products including five-gallon buckets of latex paint, when available.
The city collects tires, oil, antifreeze and metal appliances all year at the transfer station, 3901 S. Chautauqua Ave.