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AYER/SHIRLEY – Despite morning rain, citizens of Ayer and Shirley slipped on rubber gloves, grabbed trash bags, and hit the streets to clean up roadside debris. It was the 5th annual Cleaner Ayer event. For neighboring Shirley, it was the town’s 4th annual roadside clean up.

Each town effort was led by its respective recycling committees.

In Ayer, Depot Square served as the nerve center for operations. Among those lending a hand were candidates for office in the April 30 Town Election.

Residents were also welcomed to bring over electronics to be recycled for a fee courtesy of All-American-Recycling of Ayer. New this year – bulk Styrofoam collection for recycling.

Ayer Recycling Committee Chair Laurie Sabol said there seemed to be fewer ‘big ticket’ items found along the road. There were a few mufflers located, and an intact plastic urn for potting flowers.

In prior years, there have been unusual roadside finds. Not so much, though, this year.

“This year, nobody has reported toilets,” laughed Sabol.

Still, Ayer Cub Scout Pack 32 member Justin Helsing, 7, said some of the things found roadside were “gross,” including cigarette butts and straws.

Fellow pack member Dylan White, 7, partnered with his brother, Colin, and his mother Claire White. “Never litter again!” was Dylan’s message for those who throw trash out car windows.

In Shirley, the Leominster Road transfer station was the rally point for the Shirley Recycling Committee’s 4th annual roadside clean up. Recycling Committee Chair Dawn McCall was assisted by Ayer-Shirley High School senior David Cynewski in sorting the recyclables collected Saturday by Shirley volunteers. Cynewski volunteered in the effort as part of his senior class community service graduation credits.

This year’s ‘treasures’ included a couple of painted flower pots in good condition, a trophy, and a birdhouse fashioned out of a used paint can. All will be re-purposed. Another maddening find was a large and structurally-intact rechargeable alkaline battery.

McCall thought turnout was “quieter” this year, perhaps due to the start of soccer season, a gardening club event at the library, and a candidates’ forum at Town Hall. McCall noted the Shirley “Boy Scouts were busy, busy, busy” and out in force.

McCall said the roadside trash problem is caused by “lazy” people, while the volunteer militias are the “good guys who pick it up.” Doubly troubling were the number of “nip bottles” recovered from the roadsides, said McCall.

The number of redeemable cans and bottles seems to be down, she said. “Either the deposits are worth keeping or it’s gradually getting picked up and not replaced,” said McCall.

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.

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