AYER/SHIRLEY — The small, quiet post-cleanup gathering at the Billiard’s Café in Ayer belied the flurry of activities that took place earlier in the day last Saturday.
The occasion was an appetizer and dessert potluck to celebrate the nearly 200 individuals and small groups of people who combed the roadsides for litter on Cleaner Ayer and Shirley Day in the two towns. Most of the activity was in Ayer, but Shirley’s small number of cleanup crews managed to cover many of the more heavily littered areas throughout town.
The annual event was co-sponsored by the Ayer and Shirley Recycling Committees, and the majority of the litter collected in both towns was recyclable alcoholic beverage containers, followed by fast food trash.
At the Shirley Recycling Center, Dana Hopf, Pam Torres, Michael Labbe and Recycling Committee Chair Dawn McCall handed out large plastic bags and gloves donated by the Shirley Charitable Foundation to would-be trash collectors.
“The Shirley Charitable Foundation also donated the banner downtown, and the Fire Department was kind enough to hang it for us,” said McCall.
Excavating contractor Donald LeRiche and John O’Brien, who has worked at the Shirley Recycling Center for the past six years, were also on hand to help.
LeRiche brought a large truck and trailer with which to pick up the trash and recyclables left by volunteers along their routes. “It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said.
“Most of the trash is recyclable, but if it’s caked with mud, then we have to put it in the trash because of the weight,” said O’Brien.
By 9:30 a.m., Rose West and Chris Gaudet of Shirley were already picking up litter along Leominster Road by a stretch of wetlands, their two bags half full of trash and recyclables.
“I wish we had double-bagged,” said Gaudet, as he threw more trash into his bag. “When we were kids we didn’t know any better,” he said shaking his head. “Now people should know better (than to litter). We used to change the oil in the driveway. Now I can’t understand why people would do it.”
Michelle Kilpatrick, her son Ethan McFetridge, and friend Logan Therrian cleaned up in front of the Hazen Memorial Library and Ayer-Shirley Middle School. “Anyone need a refrigerator drawer?” Kilpatrick asked, as she and her son emptied water and mud out of a big plastic drawer.
Judging by the reduced amount of trash found on the roadsides this year compared to last year, the recycling initiative not only appears to be making a difference in the amount of resources conserved, but also may be reducing the amount of waste littered along the town’s streets.