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.

Helping Sherman were United Way Youth Venture Green Team students AJ 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' nine-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.

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.