Waste Collection Draws Crowds
Tons of household hazardous waste were hauled away Saturday, leaving Moore County a far safer place to live.
An estimated 900 vehicles showed up at Pinecrest High School for a joint community hazardous waste collection day. The sponsors had expected about 300.
"We were inundated," said Jeff Batten, Pinehurst village assistant manager. "It far exceeded our expectations. But it was a good problem to have. People got all of that stuff out of their homes, and it didn't end up in the landfill."
Hazardous waste materials are banned from landfills.
Batten said the turnout was so heavy that their major contractor, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, had to dispatch a second tractor-trailer truck from its headquarters in Reidsville to handle the overwhelming amount of materials brought to the collection site.
The need for more helping hands was so great that volunteers were plucked from among the drivers delivering their household materials to the site.
The event, which had been scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., was extended an additional hour to accommodate the overwhelming response. The sponsors, contractors and dozens of volunteers worked into the night loading materials onto the second truck from Clean Harbors.
Joan Neal, executive director of Keep Moore County Beautiful (KMCB), said local residents were already at the school as early as 9 a.m. By 10, there was a long line of cars waiting to drop off a wide variety of hazardous materials, ranging from paint and paint thinners to hydraulic transmission and brake fluids, along with paper for shredding.
"It was amazing," Neal said. "We were all so surprised. We certainly didn't expect such a large turnout."
Neal estimates that KMCB supplied about 25 volunteers, as well as refreshments and labor.
But because of the volume, people were emerging from their cars and offering their services, according to Batten, who said he has no idea how many people volunteered to help out on the spur of the moment. He said most of these volunteers were people he knew personally.
The volunteers included a number of students from Pinecrest High School. Because of the hazardous nature of much of the material and the resulting liability, the students were not allowed to handle many of the chemicals, but Batten said their services were extremely helpful for other aspects of the effort.
For example, they helped with handling the 21,000 pounds of paper shredded during the day.
"They did a fabulous job," Batten said of the students.
First Big Event
Both Neal and Batten credit the enormous response to the presence of more environmentally sensitive residents in Moore County than in most communities and the fact that this was the first collection of this magnitude ever held here.
Because it was the first time for such a collection, many residents took advantage of the opportunity to remove buckets of old paint, pesticides and other materials stored in garages, basements and sheds.
The project was the brainchild of the village of Pinehurst, which was joined by the towns of Southern Pines and Aberdeen and Moore County as sponsors. The four local governments are sharing the cost on a percentage basis. The Moore County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and Keep Moore County Beautiful, a nonprofit organization working under the county umbrella, were the other sponsors, providing volunteers, labor and expertise.
The Extension Service periodically provides a pick-up service for such hazardous materials as pesticides, but that program has never included such a broad variety of materials.
Other materials collected Saturday included furniture strippers and finishing products, solvents and degreasers, wood preservatives and polishes, aerosols, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs, NiCd batteries, alkaline batteries and lithium batteries, propane cylinders, swimming pool chemicals, used motor oil, antifreeze, gasoline, paint and paint thinners, hydraulic transmission and brake fluids. Also collected were pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, which were brought in their original containers for identification purposes.
Neal said many people apparently had held on to paint and related materials for a long time and took advantage of the service. As a resort and retirement community, Moore County has a steady stream of newcomers, which means frequent turnover in the housing market and a resulting increase in materials needed to paint walls and refinish floors.
"We ended up stacking paint all over the place," she said. "It was amazing. We were all so surprised at the response."
This was all in addition to the paper shredding service provided by Cintas, one of three contractors signed up for the occasion. The other contractors were the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Clean Harbors.
Cost of the collection has not been totaled, but the estimated cost for the household hazardous waste alone is $40,000.
Batten said he and other sponsors discussed the project with leaders from other counties where similar collections have been held, and based on those conversations, the Moore County people were led to believe that about 300 to 350 families would take advantage of the offer. They definitely were not expecting triple that number.
Nevertheless, Batten said he thinks they handled the multitude very well under the circumstances.
"I thought we were highly organized and did very well when you consider that we were inundated," he said. "Our committee just responded extremely well."
'Smoother' Next Time
Batten said that the enormous turnout proves the need to hold these collection events more frequently. He expects the sponsors to meet again soon and begin planning for a follow-up project.
"We expect the next one to be much smoother to operate," he said.
The sponsors now know what to expect and have some idea of personnel needs. Clean Harbors sent chemists and technicians to sort the hazardous materials and to make sure they were loaded properly. Batten says that Clean Harbors may send more experts on the next run.
"By and large they were very patient," Batten said, acknowledging that some people did wait a long time to unload materials. "The majority of the people were gracious about the waiting."
Batten said that the next such collection will again be held at Pinecrest, which he calls the best location. It is a central location, easy to find for most people, and the campus has large parking areas and roads with convenient ingress and egress. Despite the heavy traffic on campus Saturday, no accidents occurred.
Batten said the collected materials will be disposed of in a variety of ways.
Some materials can be recycled, with the contractors handling this themselves, while other materials will be transferred to other companies for recycling. Hazardous materials that cannot be recycled will be disposed of in an appropriate way that will pose no danger to people or animals and will cause the least damage to the environment, according to the sponsors.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story