Annual roadside cleanups in Ayer and Shirley rounded up the usual suspects on Saturday: a few car mufflers, a plastic flower pot and a birdhouse made out of a paint can.

"This year, nobody has reported toilets," Ayer Recycling Committee Chair Laurie Sabol joked.

Saturday was the fifth annual Cleaner Ayer Event, which coincided with the Shirley Recycling Committee's fourth annual roadside cleanup. Despite morning rain, residents slipped on rubber gloves, grabbed trash bags, and hit the streets.

Still, Ayer Cub Scout Pack 32 member Justin Helsing, 7, said some of the things found roadside were "gross," including cigarette butts and straws.

Fellow pack member Dylan White, 7, partnered with his brother, Colin, and his mother Claire White.

"Never litter again!" was Dylan's message for those who throw trash out car windows.

Residents were also welcome to bring over electronics to be recycled for a fee courtesy of All-American-Recycling of Ayer. New this year: bulk Styrofoam collection for recycling.

At the Leominster Road transfer station, Shirley Recycling Committee Chair Dawn McCall was assisted by Ayer-Shirley High School senior David Cynewski in sorting the recyclables collected Saturday.

Other "treasures" included a couple of painted flower pots in good condition, and a trophy. All will be repurposed. Another maddening find was a large and structurally-intact rechargeable alkaline battery.


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McCall thought turnout was "quieter" this year, perhaps due to the start of soccer season, a gardening club event at the library, and a candidates forum at Town Hall. McCall noted the Shirley "Boy Scouts were busy, busy, busy" and out in force.

McCall said the roadside trash problem is caused by "lazy" people, while the volunteer militias are the "good guys who pick it up." Doubly troubling were the number of "nip bottles" recovered from the roadsides, said McCall.

The number of redeemable cans and bottles seems to be down, she said. "Either the deposits are worth keeping or it's gradually getting picked up and not replaced," said McCall.

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.