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AYER — Kevin Leger, Manager of Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore shop in Leominster, was pleasantly surprised the morning of Nov. 5 when, by 11:30, his truck was already filled to capacity with $1,000 worth of donated doors, windows, toilets, and other construction items for resale.

ReStore was just one of many public service vendors participating in Recycle Your Reusables day, held just outside of Ayer-Shirley Regional High School (ASRHS).

MassToss, the recycling committees of Ayer, Groton, Shirley, and Townsend, the Devens DPW, and the towns of Bolton, Harvard, Littleton and Lunenburg cosponsored the event.

“If you moved into an apartment and there was nothing there, we have that plus the furniture,” said Leger of ReStore, a discount store that opened last January. “It’s basically the stuff you would start with.

“The store is three different things: a thrift store, a recycle center, and a fundraiser, because the proceeds go to build more homes in North Central Massachusetts,” he said.

“We take care of 25 towns from Acton to Ashburnham–all over the place. Our work is all done with volunteers. We do free pick-ups and you get a tax receipt with your donation. It’s an excellent program all the way around.”

Also represented at the recycling event was Gourd and Plenty, a small farm in Dracut that is part of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP) that sells its produce at local farmers markets. NESFP is designed to assist people with limited resources to begin farming in Massachusetts.

Gourd and Plenty farmers Beth Suedmeyer and Takashi Tada, who began farming on their half-acre plot of rented land last year, are interested in finding local land to rent that is closer to their home in Ayer.

Standing behind a display of gourds and other vegetables for sale, Suedmeyer provided information on her farm and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which, among other things, evaluates owners’ land and helps to match it with prospective farmers.

Gourd and Plenty will be selling greens, leeks, sweet potatoes, carrots, squashes and other produce at Williams Barn in Groton on Nov. 19, and at the Acton-Boxborough farmers’ market the following day, Suedmeyer said.

New life for old shoes

Nearby, volunteer Cheryl Salvatore of Lunenburg stood before a large pile of used athletic shoes. “They call me a recycling queen,” she said. “I find with people that, a lot of times, if they want to get rid of something fast they will throw it out. If you collect it, it gives them a place to donate it and they’ll recycle it.”

In this case the collection was of rubber soled shoes for Nike Reuse-a-Shoe, which shreds rubber and fabric from the shoes and uses them to make Nike Grind, a raw material that is turned into new athletic surfaces, the soles of new sneakers, and parts of zippers. By the end of the day, enough shoes had been collected to fill a large van.

Meanwhile, ReFoamIt volunteer Andy Poutry happily accepted a total of 500 pounds of Styrofoam donations that he said would be run through a crusher and formed into small blocks. Those blocks, he said, would then be “densified” and made into four-foot-long blocks weighing up to 1,400 pounds each.

“The blocks will be shipped to China to be melted down into plastic beads used in the manufacture of picture frames and the foam that goes inside of window casings,” he explained.

RefoamIt processes about 50,000 pounds of Styrofoam a month through events such as Recycle Your Reusables and towns that have ongoing Styrofoam recycling programs.

Need greater than ever

Martha Dean, a volunteer with the Ayer Recycling Committee and Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, said, “We are just blessed,” as she sorted through 38 cartons filled with nonperishable food items. “This is great.”

The food donations were the “admission fee” for those bringing recyclables to the event. “We’re up 11 percent in clients and we’re down in donations,” said Dean of the food pantry in Devens. “We’re especially low in cereal. We could really use that.”

The food pantry is also in need of canned soups, meats, pasta, vegetables and white tuna; jars of pasta and pasta sauce; nonperishable helpers and side dishes; coffee, tea, and cocoa; 100 percent juice; diapers; and, deodorant, shaving supplies, and soap.

Donations can be made directly to Loaves & Fishes, located at 234 Barnum Road in Devens. For more information, visit www.devenspantry.org, or call 978-772-4627.

All in all, a big haul

With over 175 cars of attendees from 22 towns, the third annual Recycle Your Reusables day was the most successful to date, according to Ayer Recycling Committee Chair Laurie Sabol.

Besides the food, construction materials, Styrofoam, and shoes, this year’s collection included 5000 pounds of paper for shredding by ProShred, a 30-yard container of plastics for Casella Waste Systems, 31 bikes for Bikes Not Bombs, a 24-foot truck full of household goods for the Lowell Wish Project, and nine wheel chairs and dozens of other mobility aids for Wheels for the World to repair and redistribute.

Sabol said that she wishes to thank Groton Boy Scout Troop 1, Pam Martin of the Ayer DPW, The Cottage Restaurant, Ayer’s Dunkin’ Donuts, the ASRHS National Honor Society, and numerous other volunteers for their generosity and support.

“Start saving your recyclables now for next year,” she said, “and watch for the announcement of the date for 2012.

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