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Medfield’s swap area is open |

Medfield’s swap area is open

‘Tis the season to swap trash for treasure at Medfield’s transfer station.

“People have been asking me all winter long, ‘when is it going to open?’” swap area “Grand Poobah” Nancy Irwin said, laughing.

Opening day for the swap area was Wednesday, and residents filled the tiny parking lot off the main transfer station almost immediately. Some unloaded cars packed with chairs, stuffed animals, picture frames, books, and more, while others took their time poking through the drop-offs for free gems.

“I do a lot of crafts, so I get supplies, I guess you could say,” resident Annette Wells said Wednesday, after showing Irwin the lamp she created out of a tea set salvaged from the swap area.

The swap area is located inside and off to the side of Medfield’s trash and recycling transfer station.

Participants must be residents with transfer stickers on their cars to enter, but can drop off and pick up almost anything for free – televisions must wait for electronic recycling days, and mattresses go to the mattress recycling just outside the swap area.

“Our goal really is to throw as little away as possible,” Irwin said.

Less than a decade ago, the swap area was just a dirt space where items people didn’t quite want to throw away were left, and picked up by any visitor quick enough, Irwin said. At the end of the day, everything was tossed.

“(Swap) started because I’m a big recycler,” Irwin said.

She said she didn’t like seeing those items go to waste. First she came in just to recycle the cardboard dumped in the dirt, then she secured town permission and a few shelves to keep items for more than one day. That grew to a donated tent, which eventually became the place the swap area is today.

Now, four covered areas – one huge 30- by 40-foot permanent structure, and three tents – dominate a paved space. Each is devoted to a separate trove, like furniture or children’s toys. One area held a growing pile of sports equipment, with two pairs of skis and poles, ski boots, ice skates, a golf bag, and an inner tube. Medfield’s MEMO donated a couple of the tents, and the town supplied the large structure and a fourth tent, Irwin said.

“I’m excited because it means things are getting recycled,” Irwin said. Though she said it can be overwhelming, she added, “I think it’s fantastic.”

Volunteers are also passionate about reusing and recycling. Volunteer Mary Pat McSharry encourages unique projects like Wells’ tea set lamp, showing residents how to decorate creatively.

“I’m always the one who’s like ‘don’t throw that away, you can make whatever,’” McSharry said.

She makes lawn ornaments with mismatched dinnerware, for example, layering plates and other dishes to create flowers. Photos of project ideas are taped to the front of some of the bins.

Visitors spent the most time Wednesday in the biggest space, slowly wandering around displays of games, books, movies, arts and crafts supplies, holiday decorations, knickknacks, and kitchen items organized by volunteers.

The area is open from May to October. At the end of the season, Irwin sticks to her recycling inclination and donates as many of the leftover items as she can. Items go to the Epilepsy Foundation, the library, the playground at Hinkley Pond, the animal shelter, the senior center, Walpole’s NewLife Home Refurnishing, and local florists.

Some things, like fabric for the Epilepsy Foundation, are donated throughout the season.

The swap area is run entirely by volunteers, Irwin said, though residents can work there for the town’s senior tax work off program, which two current volunteers take advantage of.

“We’re all volunteers,” Irwin said. “We do this because we believe in recycling.”

More volunteers are needed, she said, and hours are flexible. If interested, email Irwin at

Swap area hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with drop-offs accepted until 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

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