Carol Burgess

Carol Burgess -- Recycling Center Manager

Carol BurgessCarol Burgess became the new Wilton Recycling Center manager in 2019. She first got interested in recycling as a “picker”!  As any fan of the TV show American Pickers knows, once it is in your blood it never leaves.

The Recycling Center opened in 1979 on the site of the town damp, a facility that had been shared with Lyndeborough since 1946. In 1976, the state ordered all open dumps be covered periodically with sand, what was politely called “a sanitary landfill.”

When the late Greg Bohosiewicz first proposed what became an award-winning recycling center, it was a new concept. He was able to convince the town, but not the state. He later said, “They laughed,” saying the idea would never catch on.

So several towns joined with Wilton to build the center – Greenfield, Greenville, Lyndeborough, Mason and Temple. No state funds were used, a fact proudly displayed at the entrance for years. Greenfield now has its own transfer station, but the others are still members.

Recycling CenterThe Center is on the banks of the Souhegan River, and the state has been concerned that seepage from the old landfill would reach the river. So far, monitoring wells have showed that is not happening. That may be because from before the Civil War to about 1900, the back part of the site was a granite quarry operated by Joel Hesselton, and later his son Charles.

In 1895, Hesselton was awarded the contract for the foundation of the new Town Hall and the retaining wall along Main Street. It is assumed that he used his own granite. He also provided the stone for the arch bridge on Old County Farm Road and probably the stone for the retaining wall under the railroad along Stony Brook.

Barely visible on the left side of the driveway as you drive in is a stone-lined canal from a dam that no longer exists. It is all that remains of a furniture factory developed by Joseph Killam and William Emerson to make cradles, tables and washstands. The mill was torn down in 1910 and the stones from the foundation were used to construct mill housing in Pine Valley.

The Recycling Center is overseen by a manager with the aid of a crew of four. As manager, Carol came to Wilton with quite a bit of experience in the field. She got involved in recycling in her home town of Brookline in the ‘90s, she said. She also worked part time as a recycling attendant in Hollis and Amherst, and then was the Recycling Center Supervisor in Greenfield before accepting the full-time position in Wilton.

“We lived through COVID,” she said recently. “I’m proud of what all of us did to get us through. We were one of the few (recycling centers) to stay open.”

The crew sat down and discussed it, she said. “We came up with different ways to separate people, allowing space between trash and recycling. It worked very well.” Some of those traffic patterns are still used and the “Still Good Shed” has finally re-opened with the help of volunteers, and moved to another area.

“You have to be licensed by the state,” she said, “people don’t understand that.” Recycling Certification is a two day course which has to renewed regularly. That process replaces an earlier system with several levels leading to “senior operator” after 50 hours of training. Those working on hazardous waste collections require further certification. “Every center should have a hazardous waste coordinator,” she said. That requires training and a license. She is a certified Senior Principle Solid Waste Operator, Hazardous Waste Coordinator, and a licensed Weighmaster.

Recycling Center signThe Center recycles everything possible. On a recent morning, while she was in the cubby-hole of an office, a steady stream of patrons stopped to ask, “Where do I put this?”  Disposal fees are required of some items since the Center has to pay for everything removed.

Some changes have been made since she came, she said, “but they have been absolutely positive. The separation of non-ferrous metals has been a big asset.”

She had high praise for her crew. “The guys have done so well, work-wise, attitude. They’re dedicated to their jobs, and that reflects on everything. Having Sundays off has made a tremendous difference.”

It’s a great job, she said, never boring. “I’m always learning something, encountering new situations, new items and what do you do with it?”

Wilton Recycling CenterShe is concerned, she said, with recent reports in the media about recycling, that no one is doing it, that stuff really isn’t being recycled. “That is not true. Where do you think they get the plastic to make all that plastic? It’s recycled and we’re making money.” “Soda bottles and other plastics are recycled into numerous other products - bottles, fleece material (used for clothing and more) carpet, decking, and plastic containers just to name a few. And aluminum beverage cans are recycled into new aluminum cans since they are made from virgin material”.

The Center is overseen by an advisory board from the five member towns. “They come here, go through the facility, discuss issues. They’ve seen it evolve.”

She encourages everyone to use the Center. “Everything you bring in we recycle, and we make money on everything but the glass.”

Carol currently lives in Brookline, having arrived in New Hampshire in 1985 after moving with her husband from Pennsylvania. She has one son and one grandson.

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