SHIRLEY -- For the town, which implemented a pay-per-bag program for weekly trash pickup several years ago that includes curbside recycling pickup every other week as part of the package, there's a point when it can be too much of a good thing, according to the Board of Health, which discussed a case at its monthly meeting Monday night.
Health Board members asked resident Lucille Lindley about the numerous 35-gallon barrels that are consistently in front of her residence on Longley Road every recycling day.
At issue would be whether the residence might house an unregistered home business or if the homeowners might be trucking in recycling from an off-site business or some other source, such as a resident or residents in another town that doesn't offer free recycling.
None of the above, according to Lindley, who attended the recent health board meeting with her house mate.
"We asked you to come in to talk about the large amount of recyclables you put out," Chairman Joseph Howlett said. He sketched how the pay-per-bag system works and explained why the board was concerned.
Lindley said the recycling she puts out is mostly other people's litter.
"We pick it up from the roadside," she said. When asked where, she said it came from "all over town."
Citing "heavy traffic" on Longley Road in particular, including a lot of trucks, Lindley said her property has "a lot of frontage" and said if she and her companion didn't pick up the stuff people fling from passing cars or drop by the roadside, such as plastic water bottles, small "nips" from the package store and other items, "it would stay there" until the annual spring clean-up day, she said.
Howlett conceded there's no roadside cleanup crew in Shirley.
But member Donald Farrar was skeptical at the notion that discarded roadside recyclables could account for all those barrels, up to 15 at a time in some instances.
He also debunked a misconception that Lindley, John and a couple that came to support her had apparently come in with, that recycling generates revenue for the town.
The opposite is true, Farrar said. Instead of being paid for paper and cardboard, for example, which once brought in about $20 a ton, a diminished New England market has shifted the paradigm. Now, communities pay for recycling, one way or another.
Here, the trash hauler the town contracts with rolls it in with trash pickup, and the incentive works. People are recycling more and throwing away less. That's good for the planet, but there's a financial downside for the town.
At some point, the balance tips. If the town doesn't make enough money from the pay as you throw system to cover the cost of roadside trash pickup and recycling, "we might have to get out of the business," Farrar said.
Or ask Town Meeting to offset the cost, member Jackie Esielionis said.
Members agreed that in future they might limit the number of containers each household puts out on recycling day, say two 35-gallon trash bins. In the meantime, they'll continue monitoring the roadside output at 44 Longley Road.