EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

Scavenger hunt

Windham residents can again take items from scrap pile

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — WINDHAM — Scavenging is back in upscale Windham.

Selectmen recently lifted a ban on scavenging at the town transfer station so residents can retrieve parts or products they deem useful.

Dennis Senibaldi, the solid waste management supervisor, said the town imposed the ban last year due to activities of salvage profiteers.

“It was mind-boggling,” Senibaldi said.”You’d show up and a guy would have a truck loaded with steel. You’d look at the stuff they would take and no way it was for personal use.”

Windham traditionally allowed residents to dig into the scrap pile for screen doors, lawnmower parts and discarded bicycles.

But then, the price of metal surged, drawing a very different scavenger.

“We had guys filling up trucks with all sorts of stuff,” Senibaldi said. “They could get $200 for a truckload.”

Personal use of scrap is OK in Windham, but personal profit is another matter.

The town would rather sell the scrap itself for the benefit of taxpayers. Senibaldi said the town sells scrap metal to a private company in Salem.

“That can bring in $50,000 in a year,” he said.

Safety also was a concern driving the ban.

“It wasn’t so much the money,” Senibaldi said. “Some of them were climbing an 8-foot pile of steel to get a wheel off a lawnmower. It was a liability issue.”

But after the ban, the transfer station crew encountered residents who would really want a screen door or some other discarded piece.

In one case, somebody needed a cage for their dog.

“There was legitimate stuff people needed to use,” Senibaldi said.

So, transfer station manager Dave Paulson asked selectmen to lift the ban and allow limited scavenging.

The transfer station announced the return of scavenging a few weeks ago.

“Residents will be allowed to request removing items from the metal recycling area by contacting a station staff member under a controlled scavenging standard operating procedure,” the announcement said.

That’s very official sounding, but pretty simple in practice.

Residents tell the crew what they want and they will be helped.

But the piece in question must be accessible, not on top of or under the heap, where someone might get hurt recovering it.

Residents also have to take the whole piece, they can’t pull it apart on site.

So far, so good on the return of scavenging.

“Those who were used to getting what they needed for personal use are very happy,” Senibaldi said.

New Hampshire communities have different ways of dealing with scavenging.

Senibaldi said some have “swap shops” at their transfer station or dump, where people can trade for pieces that still have some use or value.

The transfer station area is too small in Windham for one of those, he said.

“We really don’t have the room,” he said.

In Derry, the transfer station allows limited scavenging, Steve Giroux said.

Scrap metal from which the town can derive revenue by selling is off limits. Residents are able to pick over construction debris, such as plywood, or heavy plastics, like car seats.

Safety is a concern with metal scavenging because someone could be injured by sharp edges, he said.

“A metal pile is a very dangerous place,” Giroux said.

Pelham bars scavenging.

“The biggest reason is you are looking at liability with it,” recycling center director Stan Walczak said.

It’s not just a concern about someone getting hurt at the recycling center.

Someone could take away a discarded lawnmower.

“What if that blows up on the person?” Walczak said.

He said other communities do have swap areas and that may be something Pelham could explore in the future.

“We may look at that down the road,” he said.

Safety concerns mean no scavenging in Salem.

“We do not allow it. There is no dump picking,” public works operations manager Dave Wholley said. “There are risks, obviously. We do discourage it.”