Did The Merrimack “Dump” Just Wreck Getting Free Stuff?

by Steve MacDonald

A while back the town of Merrimack changed how they accepted recycling.  Instead of asking residents to sort it into many different bins they went to single stream.  All recycling can go together.  The town packs it all up and sends it off and someone else sorts it. They did this to get more people to recycle and it worked.

This simplification removed hundreds of tons of waste from the trash (and tipping fees) and moved it into recycling.  More people are recycling more stuff because they no longer have to sort it.  Making it easier increased the amount recycled.  Mission accomplished.

Inside the recycling center, for as long as I can remember, there was also a place to put stuff people thought too good to throw away or that someone else might have a use for.  People left items for others picked them up.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right?

Transfer station employees would clean up any junk or excess on regular basis and toss it into the trash as needed.  It was a bit unorganized but it worked because it was easy.  And yes, my wife or I managed to find something, a basket, dishes, books, pans, something, most weeks, that someone else had no more use for but that fit some need of ours.  But that has changed.

The town, or someone, put a trailer up alongside the transfer station–fittingly named the ‘Swap Shop.’ Someone–I presume it was taxpayers, paid for a new pressure treated, regulation handicap accessible ramp and deck with railings.  But everyone and anyone must trek up it and through a door, into the trailer (a big version of the office-style trailers you often see at large construction sites) to drop off items or…pick them up.

My first observation about the change was this; too much work.  You have to make an extra stop. Carry your stuff up the ramp and into the trailer.  Find a place to put it.  It will be easier for people to keep driving a few hundred more feet (while already in motion) to dump it all in the transfer station with the general trash.  What was once swapped will get thrown away.

I was right.

The Swap Shop selection was lousy. When I backed up to toss my trash away there was plenty of decent looking stuff mixed in with the sea of white kitchen trash bags and black hefty lawn sized bags.  People, being people, could not be bothered with the extra “bother.”  What used to be easy, something they could do while already stopped to dump recycling, was more difficult.   They were parting with it any way so into the trash it went.

I’m sure there was a great reason for making the change.  I expect the swap shop was a compromise to no swap at all.  I just hope the people tasked with the decision-making did not delude themselves with how much better their “solution” was to the exiting arrangements.  And I hope we didn’t spend too much in tax dollars to relegate the free exchange of one man’s junk into another man’s treasure.

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