By Bill Kirk
---- — Call the Guinness Book of World Records.
Or at least the Guinness Book of Recycling Records, if there is such a thing.
The MBTA’s regional recycling day at Brickstone Square on Saturday gathered more tonnage from more cars than any of the agency’s previous efforts.
“I’d venture to say it was the single, largest one-day recycling event in Massachusetts history,” said Tim Lasker, sustainability specialist in the MBTA’s Environmental Affairs Department, which co-sponsored the event with the Andover Recycling Committee.
Lasker said 18 volunteers working for the MBTA and the town collected 8,000 pounds of television sets and more than 500 air-conditioners. They filled eight, 30-yard Dumpsters and another 200 Gaylords, which are giant, corrugated cardboard boxes.
In addition, Northeast Materials of Lowell took another 25 box-truck loads of material to its recycling facility.
“It was well in excess of 100,000 pounds of stuff,” Lasker said. “It was ridiculous.”
The amount of material collected smashed the previous record of 50,000 pounds set during an earlier, MBTA-sponsored event in Salem, Mass. It also smashed the record for the number of cars served — 704 in Andover compared to 418, also in Salem.
“We shattered the records from all previous MBTA recycling events both for participants served and amount of material collected for recycling,” Lasker said. “What is further amazing is that no one waited in line for more than five minutes.”
He said the pace of cars moving through the parking lot at Brickstone Square during the four-hour event was dazzling, with volunteers unloading an average of three cars per minute.
Records aside, Lasker said the significance of the day was that the items collected were, for the most part, appliances and other devices that are banned from being dumped in landfills.
Many communities have programs that enable residents to buy a sticker to get rid of a refrigerator, for example, but Andover doesn’t have such a program. As a result, people often collect their old appliances in their basements, attics or garages and can’t get rid of them.
The event also collected old bicycles, plastic toys, textiles, computers, yard and power equipment, all kinds of metal items, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, microwaves, stoves, lawn mowers, snowblowers, heaters, treadmills and exercise bikes.
Lasker said without events like the one on Saturday, appliances could end up getting dumped in the woods or behind a strip mall somewhere.
Keith Saxon, chairman of the Andover Recycling Committee, was equally excited about the event’s success.
“It was pretty tremendous,” he said. “It was a good public service. People kept saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, I didn’t know what I was going to do with this stuff.’”
Saxon said some people came multiple times, driving cars or trucks, sometimes towing trailers. Some people, including the first one to show up, even rented U-Haul trucks, which they filled with appliances and other stuff to drop off, he said.
“We had people from all over the Merrimack Valley,” he added.
The event’s success was attributed to advance publicity and outreach. In addition to stories in The Townsman and its sister paper, The Eagle-Tribune, Saxon said his group tapped into email lists of local civic groups, condominium associations, houses of worship and residential properties in the area.
“Any community group we had contact information for, we would send emails to,” he said.
Selectman Paul Salafia even pitched in, forwarding an email about the event to his contact list. There were also signs and flyers all over town.
Saxon, one of the volunteers, thanked members of the Recycling Committee, including Eleanor Storch, William Stearns, Don Gottfried and Mike Elmer, for their work throughout the day. He said other people from Andover who volunteered included Brad Weeden, Stuart Melnitsky, Kathleen Bates, Mike Bates and Bob Decelle.
He also thanked Nicole Townsend at CBRE/Brickstone Square for allowing the use of the property’s parking lots to stage the event.
MBTA volunteers included Tom Daly, Robert Perry, Christine Lentini, Cosette DeCoste and Lasker.