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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-496-5839.