SHIRLEY -- Nearly 200 cars from 21 towns drove through the parking lot of the Ayer-Shirley Regional Middle School to drop off recyclables for the fifth annual "Recycling Your Reusables Day."

According to Ayer Recycling Committee Chair Laurie Sabol, the event raised $1,800 worth of food and cash donations for Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, and participating vendors were very pleased with the turnout.

The Lowell Wish Project and Salvation Army each filled a 25-foot truck with household goods, and Bay State Textiles collected 750 pounds of used fabric.

Also diverted from landfills were 1,500 pounds of paper, 250 pounds of batteries, hundreds of tennis balls for service dogs-in-training, a ton of plastic, nearly four tons of electronics and 200 pounds of Styrofoam.

Barbara Sherman, co-owner of ReFoamIt, explained that her Styrofoam repurposing business in Ayer recently outgrew its densifying machine and space in Ayer and moved the company to Leominster.

ReFoamIt collects Styrofoam, grinds it into little pieces, densifies it with pressure into 30-pound blocks, and sells it to a broker who has vendors who will purchase it depending upon its color, quality and other characteristics.

"It takes 50 tractor-trailers full of loose foam to make up one tractor-trailer of densified foam," Sherman said.

"Most of it gets turned into picture frames."

Styrofoam that is not recycled can leach toxic chemicals into landfills and become broken down into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.


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Helping Sherman were United Way Youth Venture Green Team students A.J. Mastrangelo, Marcus Fields, Trevor Fields, Avery Burnham and Alex Scheufele, all eighth-graders at ASRMS.

The boys came to help after Sabol offered them two new black plastic composting bins to replace the three pressure-treated lumber ones the students made last summer.

The students' 9-cubic-foot bins were stolen before the beginning of the school year, and the Green Team recently made a plea to the public via this newspaper for their return. That is when Sabol stepped in to help.

The young men said they were pleased with the donation. Their plan is to work with school cafeteria employees and students to separate compostable materials into large rubber trash bins and empty them into the compost bins every other day.

When asked what they will do with the compost, the boys said they are hoping to start a community garden just west of the school exit on Front Street.

Recycling for Recreation

Another happy vendor at the event was Friends of Pepperell Recreation, which collected 30 used bicycles. Friends President Suzanne Boswell, Vice President Christine Kelleher and clerk Barbara Stone, with daughter Corinne, said they have been collecting, tuning up and selling bicycles for the past five years.

The bikes sell for between $20 and $100 at their spring sale at the Pepperell Town Field, which will take place on April 26.

"Last year we made about $2,000," said Stone. "The money is used to buy equipment for the town fields.

"Some money also goes for scholarships for the schools' summer playground activities, and we now want to put in a track at the town field," she said.

Reducing E-Waste

All-American-Recycling Director of Operations Edward LeBlanc had a nearly half-full truck of electronics by noon. The business, which recently moved from Ayer to Leominster off of Nashua and Mechanic streets, accepts all kinds of electronics, from computers to keyboards, DVD players, printers and telecommunication devices.

With LeBlanc were owner John Bacon, his son Jesse, IT specialist Mike Hudson and employee Koady Palinkas.

According to an article by S. Sthiannopkao and MH Wong in the Oct. 1 journal "Science of the Total Environment," most electronic waste, or "e-waste," is treated as general refuse or is crudely processed, releasing toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment.

A recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report states that only 15 to 20 percent of an estimated 50 million tons of e-waste produced annually is recycled.

LeBlanc said anything his company collects that is reusable is refurbished and resold. The rest is broken down to the point where it can be sold as a commodity. 

His company is dedicated to reducing waste, he said, and ensuring that it recycles 100 percent of the materials it receives.

Items for Reuse

Also pleased with this year's recycling extravaganza was Tom Reed of Boston Building Resources, which collected five times more building materials than at the event last year.

Both a consumer co-op and reuse center in Roxbury, the charitable organization provides affordable new and used building materials as well as advice, technical assistance and home-improvement workshops, with an emphasis on sustainability and energy efficiency.

Eddie Almodovar, a driver for the Salvation Army, Worcester, as he closed up his full truck of home goods, said, "I didn't expect this. It caught us by surprise, but we're glad. Any donation is a good donation."

Many Thanks

"I wish to thank all of our participants, vendors and many local volunteers," said Sabol after the event, which was sponsored by the Ayer and Shirley Recycling Committees, with help from the towns of Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Townsend.

A few of the organizations that assisted were the Ayer-Shirley Regional High School National Honor Society, Boy Scout Troop 1 of West Groton and Ayer Dunkin' Donuts.

Individual Ayer volunteers included Kim Krieser, Shawna Graham, Dan DeMille, Martha and Bill Dean, Linda Garant, Beth Suedmeyer, Faith Salter, Ruth Maxant, Laura Wool, Andy Poutry, Jean Diemert, Ryan Martone and Nicholas Martone.

From Shirley were Shirley Recycling Committee Chairwoman Dawn McCall, Nancy Askin, Pam Torres and Dan Torres; and from Groton, Paul Brown.

Anyone who would like to participate in next year's event, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 18, can reach Sabol at ayerrecycles@gmail.com or 978-496-5839.