Monday, June 21, 2010

It's practically here! Recycling the easy way!

Starting the first weekend in July, your trek to the Ayer Transfer Station -- and your recycling system at home -- are going to get streamlined. You'll be able to toss virtually all your recyclables, from aluminum to plastic to glass to paper and cardboard, into one recycling container at your home, and then dump them into one -- just one! -- big recycling container at the transfer station.

Then they'll all be hauled away by the Ayer Department of Public Works' new recycling contractor, Casella
Waste Systems, to be thoroughly sorted into their respective types and sent to Casella's customers, who incorporate recycled materials into their products. To learn more about just how Casella's process -- known as zero-sort recycling -- works, check out this video of their operation.

The new transfer station setup will feature one big hopper/compactor located roughly where all the multiple bins for individual types of recycling were previously. You'll pull up alongside the hopper, take your personal container of recyclables and empty it into the hopper, move on to the solid-waste area to offload your trash, and that will be that!

"Couldn't be any easier"

John Gamelin, transfer station foreman, says the new process "will cut down on the time it takes residents to do their recycling at the transfer station and make visits here much safer by simplifying the flow of traffic. It couldn't be any easier."

Gamelin notes that the change to the central hopper and the smoother traffic flow are also allowing him to redistribute space at the transfer station to meet other needs. He plans on a few additional parking spaces for the reuse shed and will move the electronics trailer and reserve a few spaces there, as well.

Other changes afoot, according to Gamelin:

  • The transfer station will no longer provide bins for separating returnable cans from non-returnables. All cans will now go into the zero-sort hopper for recycling.
  • The transfer station is now accepting plastic toys such as Big Wheels and plastic play structures for recycling. These items will NOT go into the zero-sort system, but will be handled separately by Casella.
For the first few weeks the new system is in effect, volunteers from MassToss (a.k.a. the North Central Regional Solid Waste Cooperative) and the Ayer Recycling Committee plan to be at the transfer station to help with the transition.

Ayer is gaining something more than just convenience from this change. "By making recycling easier for residents," said DPW Superintendent Dan Nason (back in March, when the news of the upcoming change first broke), "we are hoping to increase Ayer's recycling numbers, which will save us money and decrease our tonnage of municipal solid waste, which will also yield savings for the town."
Not a bad thing for the planet, either!

Wednesday recyclers, please note: The transfer station will be closed on Wednesday, June 30, to prepare for the changeover, but will reopen with the new system in place Saturday, July 3.

New pay-as-you-throw bags available all around town

In related news, bags -- instead of bag ties -- for trash are now available at five locations throughout the town: The DPW office, Aubuchon Hardware, Hannaford, Moore's and Kelly's Hallmark.

"Having multiple locations open weekdays and weekends will make purchasing these bags much more convenient for residents who work late or long hours," says the DPW's Nason.

The new trash bags cost $1 per 15-gallon bag and $1.50 per 30-gallon bag, in unlimited quantities.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Grass roots action" taking on new meaning at Sandy Pond

The grassy areas at Sandy Pond Beach for stretching out beach towels and having picnics are green in more ways than one: their root system is in the process of becoming healthier and stronger, thanks to new techniques the Ayer Parks Department has begun using to care for them. And when you walk barefoot on the grass or swim in the pond, you're not getting a load of toxic lawn chemicals you weren't bargaining for.

These changes are putting Sandy Pond in the spotlight as an organic lawn demonstration project for the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter (NOFA/Mass). The project aims to let homeowners from here and surrounding areas see firsthand how organic methods and products work at a place they know and use.
The ultimate hope is that those who visit the beach throughout the project (Ayer has committed to maintain the space organically through at least June 2013) will decide to apply what they learn to their own lawns.

NOFA/Mass celebrated the kickoff of the demonstration project this past Saturday at Sandy Pond Beach, where residents were out enjoying both the lawns and the water on a hot weekend day. Among those on hand for the event were Kathy Litchfield, NOFA/Mass Organic Land Care Coordinator, who is in charge of the demonstration project; Liz Harriman of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) of UMass Lowell, which granted the funds for this project (as well as a similar project underway in the town of Stoneham); Jeff Thomas, Ayer Parks Supervisor, and Laurie Nehring, president of People of Ayer Concerned about the Environment (PACE).

The Parks Department has been partnering for much of the past year with NOFA/Mass' Land Care Program to go organic on Sandy Pond's lawn. TURI's recent grant is allowing the town to consult with John Coppinger of the Coppinger Company Inc., a North Chelmsford-based NOFA Accredited Organic Lawn Care Professional, as part of the demonstration project. Coppinger also attended the kickoff event, taking questions from a few interested locals who wondered about some of the techniques involved.

The Parks Department's Thomas has been taking courses through NOFA/Mass for the past few years, partly in response to the concerns of some of the town's environmentally-oriented groups, which have been anxious to reduce the use of commercial fertilizers and other toxic lawn care products near town waterways.
"The NOFA courses taught me to view grass as a plant, not a product," he said. "If you want a product, you might as well put down a carpet."

He added, "We've been using these techniques for the past couple of years, trying to limit ourselves to no more than a single application of fertilizer each year, as well as stopping the use of insecticides. At the same time, we're using methods like soil aeration and proper irrigation to help the lawn develop a proper root system."

Liz Harriman, who represented TURI at the kickoff event, reminded the crowd that it's not just the products that end up on the lawns here that are of concern, but the upstream places where lawn chemicals are manufactured as well -- places that often suffer dramatically; for instance, manufacturing towns with increased cancer rates. "When you make a difference here, you make a difference there," she said.
She applauded those involved in the project, noting, "You're showing the town residents that if you can go organic with lawn care here at Sandy Pond, they can do it at home."

PACE's Nehring said, "I'm so pleased the town is doing this." PACE, the Ayer Conservation Commission and the Ayer Greenway Committee are among the town groups that have been urging the town to green its lawn care methods.

NOFA/Mass' Litchfield said, "We are very happy to be an educational resource to homeowners in the town of Ayer and beyond."

For more about this project and ways to go organic on your home lawn, visit or

Top, Sandy Pond Beach getting a workout last Saturday.
Middle, 11-year-old Ayer resident Colin plants flower seeds with a NOFA volunteer at last Saturday's demonstration project kickoff event.
Bottom: A view of the lawns, green and ready for summer.

Green Goings On
Tooker land trail build, Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m.-noon
Meet at Oak Ridge Drive (watch for a volunteer to guide you to the right spot) to help the Ayer Greenway Committee build a trail access through the newly acquired Tooker land into the existing Pine Meadow Conservation lands. Long pants and appropriate shoes are the dress code; rakes, nippers and gloves the toolkit. Would-be trailblazers should also bring water. For more information, contact Patrick Hughes at

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

See organic lawn care in action at Sandy Pond, starting this Saturday

Ever wished you could see how well organic lawn care products and techniques work on someone else's lawn before trying them on your own? Your chance has come. NOFA/Mass (the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association), the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) of U. Mass Lowell and Ayer Parks and Recreation are teaming up to show locals how it's done on the lawn by our own Sandy Pond.

The project gets under way at the pond
this Saturday, June 5, from 1-3 p.m., with an event featuring speakers from several of the involved groups, children's activities and light refreshments. And of course, there will be info on how homeowners can green their lawns, as well.

Saturday's event is just the beginning: Ayer Parks and Rec, working in concert with an organic land care provider, will be maintaining the patch of land at Sandy Pond organically through at least June 2013. That means residents will have a great chance to see longer-term results from the new lawn care approach.

For more information on the kickoff event, contact NOFA/Mass' Kathy Litchfield, coordinator, at 413-773-3830 or

Green goings on

Marion Stoddart documentary screening premiere, Saturday, June 12, 6:15 to 11 p.m.

This film is the story of Marion Stoddart, a grassroots organizer who led the 1960s push to clean up the Nashua River. The evening will begin at 6:15 p.m. with a light hors d’oeuvres reception and a chance to meet Marion Stoddart. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at Lawrence Academy's Richardson-Mees Performing Arts Center, Rte. 40, in Groton, followed by a party across the street at the Old Groton Inn’s Carriage House (128 Main St.) at 8 p.m.

The pre-premiere mingle and film screening are free, but tickets must be reserved. Tickets to the party are $25. To reserve and purchase tickets go to, call 617-834-7315 or e-mail Marea Santos at Work of 1000.

NRWA Father's Day paddle on the Squannacook, Sunday June 20, 1-4 p.m.

The Nashua River Watershed Association is leading a paddle on the Squannacook River on Father’s Day with guide Stacey Chilcoat, NRWA River Classroom Director. The roundtrip flat water paddle, departing from West Groton, offers takers a look at a section of the Squannacook River known for its rich wildlife habitat and natural beauty. NRWA will provide field guides and other identification materials.

The trip is open to the public and free of charge, though donations to support NRWA programs are welcomed. Trips run as planned in a variety of weather conditions, including mist and light rain. You may bring your own boat or rent from Nashoba Paddler.

Space on the trip is limited and pre-registration is required, whether or not you bring your own boat. Registration is due by June 17th. To pre-register, or for more information, call NRWA at 978-448-0299, or e-mail Elizabeth Harris.