Editorial: Reduce, Reuse, Research

  • The Locust Street Transfer Station in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 10/5/2018 8:39:12 AM

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But sometimes, one man’s trash is just another man’s trash. Both scenarios have played out at the Locust Street Transfer Station in Northampton, where until recently visitors with magpie eyes could salvage all sorts of discarded items. But as the Gazette reported earlier this week in an article about the Northampton transfer station, the reuse table has now been retired.

The missing reuse table first came to our attention thanks to a recent letter to the editor from Gazette reader Gary Sienkiewicz, who lamented the disappearance of the reuse table, which was discontinued earlier this year. “Like many other situations in life, the powers that be find it easier to shut something down rather than deal with the root of the problem, no matter how big or small,” Sienkiewicz wrote. “I hope they will reconsider their decision and bring back the reuse table. It’s such a little thing, but so many people miss it.”

We admire the “waste not, want not” mentality. But in reality, a good percentage of the “reusable” items placed on the reuse table were actually not so reusable. 

Paul Sniadach, a gatekeeper at the Locust Street location, cited the piling up of trash as a reason why the reuse table was discontinued. “At the end of the day, we’d have to throw it away,” he said, ticking off examples of unusable items such as board games with missing pieces, chipped mugs and a scratched-up frying pan. 

Donna LaScaleia, director of the Northampton Department of Public Works, noted all the waste that got left on the reuse table, saying, “You’re defeating the purpose of reuse.”  

Both pointed to the ReCenter Swap Shop at the Glendale Road Transfer Station as a viable alternative. Although hours are limited to 8-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays (through Oct. 27), that time appears to be well spent, and while some visitors complain that the location is inconvenient, others say it’s worth the drive to get access to more stuff that’s been sifted and sorted through with greater care. “The guys at the ReCenter will go through the stuff faster,” Sniadach said. “We didn’t have anybody here.”

The ReCenter advertises itself as being staffed by “a small army of volunteers passionate about reuse and waste reduction,” on its website, which also provides comprehensive intake guidelines on what items are accepted, rejected, and considered for display on the center’s bulletin board, “which will allow people to post items that we may not be able to accept for others to find and enjoy.” The list of items covers everything from bricks to baby strollers, chainsaws to sequins and glitter, weightlifting machines to wall-to-wall carpeting, and is, if nothing else, kind of fun to read.

We’re all for reusing, but let’s not assume our trash is someone else’s treasure. Part of “being green” means knowing your do’s and don’ts when it comes to recycling and reusing, and if your item is a don’t at one place, chances are good you can find another place that considers it a do. But it does take some research.

To learn more, we suggest visiting Who Takes What: A Directory for Reuse and Recycling in the Pioneer Valley at whotakeswhat.wordpress.com. Other great resources are Buy Nothing groups and Northampton ReUse, both on Facebook.

And, of course, there’s always the “free stuff” category on Western Mass Craigslist. As of print time, we saw offers for free firewood, a free sewing machine, a free non-working claw machine, and even free Bantam roosters.

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