Southborough selectman says he doesn’t always recycle. Do you? (with POLL)

Above: The recycling area at Southborough’s Transfer Station

Selectman John Rooney sent a murmur of disapproval through the crowded Town House Hearing Room earlier this week when he admitted he doesn’t always recycle.

In a discussion about the Swap Shop and related traffic issues, Rooney said when he hits the Transfer Station at 5:00 pm on a Saturday and the recycling area is packed with people, he opts to throw his recycling in the hopper along with his trash.

“I just don’t have the time (to wait),” he said.

While one resident at the meeting chastised Rooney for “not leading by example” (and several of you have followed suit in the comments on this post), another resident wondered after the meeting if Rooney’s behavior is in fact typical of many in town.

Rooney said if the town adopted a use-based model for the Transfer Station, such as pay-as-you-throw, he would have more incentive to recycle, and he suspects he’s not alone.

So the question today is: Is Rooney’s behavior the norm in Southborough? Are you religious about your recycling or do you let yourself slack off when it’s inconvenient? Would financial incentives encourage you to recycle more? What about logistical improvements like a better recycling system at your house or better flow at the Transfer Station? (Or perhaps peanut butter containers that clean themselves?)

Take the poll below (remember, it’s anonymous so be honest!) and then share your thoughts in the comments. (Note: If you’re reading this via the My Southborough Daily email, you’ll need to visit the blog to vote or view results.)

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Frank Crowell
10 years ago

There is more then just murmuring in my household with respect to the lack of a reply to Mr Rooney’s questions to the BOE. If anyone is wondering where he is “leading by example”, we need look only on the blog for evidence. Any murmuring going on during BOE meetings?

SB Resident
10 years ago

I like the peanut butter joke. I make an extra effort to recycle all my aluminum. Its the valuable part and the biggest reason why our recycling is free to us. If the plastic is gross, I often toss it. The water to clean it will negate any positive impact of the recycling and the mass is pretty tiny compared with the rest of the real trash so the savings to the town and the env is generally negligible.

Mr. Rooney does have a point, time is money, although once you are an elected leader, you have a responsibility to lead by an example. (kinda like a lt gov who doesn’t wear a seatbelt) People like this are not fit to serve, and should be voted out.

To solve the time is money problem, the rich should have the option to buy their way out or recycling, similar to buying “carbon credits”.

Jessica Rosenthal
10 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

Dear SB Resident,

While I have a feeling that I disagree, could you please expand on the rich having the option to “buy their way out” of recycling? I would like to understand it better before forming a solid opinion. How exactly do you think it would work? For the people in favor of PAYT (of which I am not one of them), would this still work in that case?

Thank you in advance for your clarification!

John Rooney
10 years ago

I freely admit that there have been occassions when I am unable to get to the transfer station until late Saturday afternoon and in so doing I have not been diligent in my recycling habits. There is no excuse for this lapse of community preservation other than my own lack of patience with the traffic and my schedule, neither of which is an excuse at all. When I am able to recycle without having to spend extra time doing it, I am vigilant.

I take no pride in this behavior other than the pride associated with telling the truth. And yes, the transparency of my recycling habits will immediately cause me to make it a point to attend to my trash and recycling prior to Saturday evenings.

Mark Ford
10 years ago
Reply to  John Rooney

Thanks for the refreshing honesty (as usual), John, and for the public New Year’s Resolution!

Has the town ever seriously considered expanded/different hours for the Transfer Station? For those residents who work days and are away weekends, there’s hardly a way to get to the Station. I know communities that have evening hours a couple nights per week, or are open Sunday afternoons. That would alleviate some of the crunch on Saturday, I’d imagine.

Matthew Brownell
10 years ago
Reply to  Mark Ford

Excellent suggestion.

Would love to see the transfer station operating schedule changed, so that it remains open a couple nights per week until 7pm or so.

10 years ago

Has the idea of opening M,W,F,and Sat ever come up. It would seem to be that we could get through Sunday if we had Saturday and then Monday. Going from Saturday to Wednesday (I usually only get there Friday and Saturday because of my work schedule as others have stated) is painful. We are paying for this, so why is it that nobody listens to us. MANY people have asked for either additional hours or different days and it seems to fall on the deaf ears of the BOS.

10 years ago

I try to recycle much of our waste, but, as mentioned by others, when items are messy I often don’t. An empty bottle is a no brainer. Other items I’m not sure about – is it ok to recycle the cardboard circles that have pizza cheese or are those trash? And when recycling requires washing an item, I worry that I’m causing more harm than good by cleaning it. It’s often hard to decide which is a “greener” way of behaving. Is it better to use rags and cloth napkins than disposable mop pads, paper towels and napkins? I create less waste but much more laundry. Sometimes it’s just hard to figure out what is better for the environment.

As for Mr. Rooney, I’m not happy with his behavior. I do agree about the concept of leading by example. But I applaud his honesty. I’d rather have an official who tells the truth about his behavior than a hypocrite. I just hope he chooses to pursue making changes that encourage people like him to behave differently (e.g., evening hours).

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  Beth

The cheesy pizza circles are trash, not recyclable. Paper goods should be clean, especially clean of oils.

Please break down your boxes. A major cost of recycling is shipping, and air-filled voids don’t benefit anyone. The guys at the transfer station use a front-end loader to compact cardboard, but starting from flat is better. (I could be out of date on this, as I started using a private hauler 11 years ago when I had a broken leg, and I haven’t given that luxury up, so I’m usually only at the transfer station to gather signatures or hand out literature.)

I’ve tried to reduce my washing of recyclable containers to the minimum needed to avoid insects and rodents – less detergent, less hot water, less effort. Presoaking’s good if you can stand the clutter. An ancient crusty jar of solidified food, though? I may throw that way.

Substituting cloth for paper is best if you can wash the cloth in cold water. Most of the energy used in washing is used to heat the water. Our aging water infrastructure is a concern, as is the sheer need we have, but at least that water does go back into the water table. Of course, then there’s the drying, and no, I haven’t used drying racks for that in many many years.

Source reduction is better than recycling. The state measures us on the percentage we recycle, when the real number of concern is the amount of waste we don’t recycle. When I stopped taking the dead-tree newspaper, my percentage of recycling went down, but the planet was better off.

Usually, the green way is the cheap-skate way.

Corrections from someone more knowledgeable cheerfully accepted…

Juneo DeLouis
10 years ago

After reading the nots from the meeting last night (Wed), I agree that one of the ways to solve the problem of traffic jams is either relocations the recycling station(s) or the Swap Shop, but what would help us, the town of Southborough make some extra moeny and ENSURE that contractors from other towns and maybe even ours (that don’t have stickers) , is to move to the PAY AS YOU THROW system. SInce we are really moving towards a greener town, many more people with start to recycle more and maybe even compost, hecven reducing their weekly garbage to 1 maybe 2 bags a most. Depending on the cost per bag, this could be less that what we bag per siticker(*?) but more important is to ensure the people WITHOUT valid stickers are no longer able to fil upour transfer stations. Many surrounding towns have gone to the Pay-as-you-go sustems and from what I hear makes you more aware of what you are throwing away and you tend to recycle more.
Just sayin’ there are other ways to solve problems. I agree with Karen G. that we do need abigger Swap Shop building (which is awesome because that means families are looking to others to reuse their used toys or treasures. I know we made a few families happy this holiday by giving them (recycling) items thri kids wanted.. Makes you smile knowing someone else is happy. Keep up the great work all.

Mike Fuce
10 years ago

It is always appauling to me to here anyone use the term “Rich”. I have to often times correct my children to use the correct term Wealthy. Who is rich? It is all relative. To a guy in the 200k house my 700K hosue seems rich. And the guy in the 1.5M house seems rich to that guy. And so on. And most what I call wealthy people, at least in our town, have worked hard at an education, a career, and then often times take the initiative and risk of starting their own business to become what the ignorant call “Rich”, no my friend it is wealth and that too is relative. But to the honestly disengenuoius leftist, bordering on marxist comments of “let the rich pay”, you really want to make others pay for what you have not worked for or not taken the risk on. And to comment on carbon credits, big scam. Follow the money, steal from others to pay to get done what the lobbyists, politicians and leftists who use “new laws” to get wealthy. I am in the industry and I hate the dishonesty of the leaders of the so called “green” initiatives and movements. Follow the money, track who these people are from the carbon exchnage in Chicago to Europe and you will see it is all leftist bull. Now, Mr. Rooney I am sure would love to have that comment back. But it was probably late at night, he put in probably 12 hours at HIS “wealth” creating business. and does not simply have the time to think perfectly clearl at 9 or 10 pm at night, I can relate. I am sure his house has energy efficient heat, cooling, lamps et… but when the “trashers” clog up the “trading station” it is very frustrating. Maybe the “junk” folks can do the sorting as part of clogging up the transfer station as part of payment for operating the shed there? But please, your class warfare and so called environmentalists give us all a break. Let me check your taxes last year. How much did you donate to non-profits you so hardily support in verse. i suspect like most liberal, democrat folks close to nothing. (And forgive me I dont have time to do the spell check, have to get to work to earn more wealth).

10 years ago

I’ve said it before, more weekdays isn’t an issue for me but the existing times are worthless for anyone who has a commute. Naturally the station is busiest on Saturday when anyone with a job > 10 miles away can’t come between 08.00 and 18.00.

10 years ago

This is perhaps the most offensive post I have ever read on this blog. It is full of sweeping positive generalities about the cross section Mr. Fuce supports, i.e. the “wealthy,” and full of negative, insulting generalities about those he apparently despises. Does he actually believe that all wealthy people are hard-working saints and all “leftist, democrat, environmentalists” are stealing, lying hypocrites who give nothing to charity? This is not only offensive but a very good example of partisan zealotry and ignorance. People, try to hear this, there is a good deal of gray out there and no cross section of our town, or our country, can be shoved into the neat and tidy boxes that Mr. Fuce seems to love so much. Until we all “get” that concept we will continue to alienate ourselves from one another and our country will continue to sink deeper into the divided quagmire in which we have been sinking for that past decade.

I, for one, was a bit surprised by Mr. Rooney’s comment about his recycling habits, but the Hummer he drives did not make it a shocking revealation. And, unlike Mr. Fuce, I highly doubt that Mr. Rooney’s home is a model of energy efficiency. But you know what, that is not the only criteria by which I judge a person.

And before anyone “goes there” I am posting anonymously which is my option and my right and makes my opinion no less valid than any other.

Frank Crowell
10 years ago
Reply to  Resident

I too was surprised at Mr Rooney’s reply on recycling. What I wished is that he said nothing. If asked, I wished he would have replied like the Governor of New Jersey would have replied: None of your business (might have left one word out).

10 years ago
Reply to  Resident



10 years ago

Why is this so hard to fix? We keep complaining about the percentage of recycles, the cost of trash, the congestion, etc. What truly is the problem seems to be that many citizens like the social aspects and the convenience of seeing people (signatures, car washes, literature) or browsing thru swaps, and as a result, we are failing in our recycle efforts. Change the dynamic. Find somewhere else to socialize. Improve traffic flow and efficiency and hours to meet the goals of the Transfer Station. Or else stop all this complaining about how it doesn’t work!

Many, many years ago I worked on systems management and work flows. Here is my free advice.

– Change the hours to accomodate working people. There is no one at the recycle center during the week. Perhaps noon to 7pm.
– Move the swap shop to the end of the line where the toxic shed and bottle bins are now! Put swap parking spaces in the back.
– Move the metals area to a section closer to the highway department down below. It seems to get less use. Put parking spots in its place.
– Don’t collect signatures, Kelly and everyone else, at the recycle area. Collect them from the cars that are waiting in line to get to the hopper. If this is unsafe, then consider how much time and congestion you are contributing to what should be solely our recycling effort.
– Don’t allow car washes at the transfer station, or any other events than trash transfer.
– If you arrive late on a Saturday and it’s too crowded, take the stuff home and save for another week when you will go earlier. It’s supposedly clean items.
– And for any citizens who are reading and writing here, if you have the chance to go during the week, please do so and allow Saturdays for those who have no choice. This is what we do in our house, even if it’s 5:45 on a Friday and my son moans and groans. He knows it’s better than any time on Saturday.

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  m

I have never collected signatures when anyone was waiting for a parking space. In fact, I’ve never even seen cars idling while awaiting a space. I always park at the DPW and walk up the hill, so I’m not taking up a space. We’re not causing a problem. You don’t want to sign, no problem. Just say, “No thanks.”

The transfer station staff have asked us not to collect at the hopper for safety reasons.

10 years ago

Just a tip for the peanut butter jars (or any jar with sticky greasy stuff that won’t easily rinse clean (mayo – etc)) – put the mostly scraped out jar in the top rack of the dishwasher and run it through with your dishes. The jar will come out a little warped, but spotlessly clean and ready for recycle.
From the poll 65% or so always recycle. I guess I am not surprised by that number given the fact that most likely the people who recycle choose to read this blog. From the data I have seen this is not the correct number for the entire town. I guess I am interested in hearing the reasons people chose not to recycle. Is it considered too much work, just not part of your thought process, or something else? Given that the town spent around $500,000 to get rid of garbage according the the latest statistic I read, I would think that it would be in everyone’s interest to try to increase recycling in the town and thereby lower our disposal costs. For those of you that sometimes recycle, what stops you from always recycling? I am not trying to judge anyone. I would just like to understand. Thanks!

10 years ago
Reply to  Laura


Thank you for the tip about cleaning the mayo jars. We try to recycle as much as possible but after reading your post and the one by Kelley Roney regarding pizza circles, I wonder if there are many more people like me why are actually creating problems by assuming almost everything should be recycled and not really paying much attention to its cleanliness.

Can someone point out a link that would be educational to well intentioned folks like me?

Thank you.

Matthew Brownell
10 years ago


Sigh. Pay-as-you-Throw (PAYT) is a very unfortunate problem child brought to us by those who typically believe that government mandates and centrist control are a defacto & inbred way of life.

Wayyy too many problems with PAYT, and it’s really not necessary to achieve higher levels of recycling in a community.

1) PAYT increases illegal dumping. Those who would deny this have never taken a casual walk along the roadside. Littering and dumping is already bad enough within Southborough.

2) PAYT actually adds to the average disposal cost to ALL end users, since you’re now paying the middleman’s (retailers) markup for stocking and selling the PAYT bags.
Also, to quote a recent contributor to this discussion “There is also a more pernicious problem which shows up a few years into a pay-per-throw system. Many of the transfer station’s operating costs are independent of the tonnage of trash we discard. Who pays for the fixed costs of running the transfer station? If you build these fixed costs into each bag, your cost per bag increases as fewer bags are thrown away. As residents flee to private haulers or find other ways to dispose of their trash, the price of bags skyrockets as these fixed costs are distributed across a smaller group of residents. In the end, only the suckers are left, paying exorbitant prices to subsidize the fixed operating costs of the transfer station.”

3) Ridiculous that no one has mentioned that purchasing the PAYT bags can be a time-consuming, gas-wasting process. This HAS been my experience in every PAYT community in which I’ve lived. The bags are often out-of-stock, or the store only has small (~15 gallon bags) left in stock. . . Really, it’s such an as*-backward, pain-in-the tuckus.

4) What does one do with bulk items under the PAYT process? This would include rolls of carpet, broken pallets, construction debris, electronic gear, etc. (see # 1, above)

5) Residents in PAYT communities HATE the process. I only that if you’re a PAYT advocate, speak with a wider audience, and I’m sure you’ll get an earful.

10 years ago

I try to be vigilant with my recycling. However, the exception, as with many other above, tends to be with hard to clean containers. Nonetheless, I applaud Mr. Rooney’s honesty. So, we are willing to cast judgement on a man because he is willing to be honest instead of turning the other way when we know he may be lying?? Thank you, Mr. Rooney for you ARE leading by example!! You are providing an example of being honest even when you are aware that it will not be popular. Even when it is admitting a mistake. I wish all town officials would follow suit in all areas. It would help to clean up the garbage in town in other ways!

10 years ago

Is pay as you throw and charging for bags over a certain limit the same thing? could this be a happy medium? Any bags over an allotted amount (2?) is x amount of $$. With, possibly a break to senior citizens (no, I am not one, but am using another town as a guideline).

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