Swap Shed Operations Working Group Seeking Volunteers

May be an image of text that says "VOLUNTEERS NEEDED SWAP SHED OPERATIONS WORKING GROUP The Public Works Department is seeking residents who would be interested in developing the new operational plans for the Swap Shed at the Transfer Station with the goal of it being a wholly olunteer-run operation. Please email selectboard@westonma.gov if you are interested in working on this community community-forward and environmentally significant plan."

Ah the Swap Shed. Apart from the watering trough and the Paul Revere bell, there is no other place as beloved as the Swap Shed, nor one that brings as many emotions out among Weston’s residents. For someone not born into the Weston fold, the absolute love of it somewhat defies belief. Weston is not alone in its love affair, of course, as many other towns also have “Give and Take” or Swap Sheds at their transfer stations.

The pandemic arrival shut down the Swap Shed last spring as concerns were raised about Covid-19 being transmitted by contact, and also possible airborne particles–the Swap Shed is a small shed without much circulation. In addition, as Weston moves to a model of Pay As You Throw, there is a concern that the Swap Shed will become a place where people dump unuseable stuff to not pay for disposal. Window air conditioner, anyone? Computer monitor? Microwave?

Good times at a Swap Shed. Credit: Boston Globe

To be fair, the Owl has acquired a number of great and then some not-so-great items at the Swap Shed. Let’s be honest–the fact that it is free makes it look a lot better. The best find: a beautiful mirror now gracing the living room fireplace. The marginal find–eight wooden chairs for the backyard all in differing levels of functionality. We play backyard roulette at my house–which guest will hear the spectacular “CRACK” and go crashing to the ground in a cloud of wooden sticks and clover? Life on the northside, folks; it’s pretty crazy. A couple of finds have gone back the following week as the realization that free is not “good” hit home.

The Owl has lived in many places where there were no swap sheds and life was pretty okay, really. In San Francisco, if you put something out on the street corner, it was gone overnight though I have no idea where that went. In Miami, there were folks who patrolled the neighborhoods on garbage day. We had one baby toy literally removed from our hands, chucked in the back of the pickup, and gone by the time we had realized that we were in our pajamas on a public thoroughfare. When I was a grad student in Evanston, I was the one driving around looking for stuff to fill the apartment. College towns are great for “stuff”. São Paulo? You just passed on your stuff to the next needy person.

What is clear is that the Swap Shed needs to open under a new model–otherwise, it shall simply become a place to avoid $20 fees. It will also take time to evaluate the items coming in–while the Owl appreciates the thought that the employees of the Transfer Station can continue to work it, it’s really not practical or feasible. The model being looked at–volunteers manning the shed–is not rocket science nor is it new. Marblehead and Lincoln both already run with volunteers. In Lincoln, senior citizens get a tax credit for working at the Swap Shed.

Lincoln is looking to return to Swapping in early May, subject to the “ability to recruit a sufficient core group of volunteers.” Wellesley will re-open its Give and Take today, Thursday May 6 and will follow a hybrid schedule where one day is drop off, one day is pickup (“shopping”) and Saturdays will be both drop off and pickup. Wayland’s Give and Take area is still closed with no published plans for re-opening.

If you’re a fan of the Swap Shed and want it re-opened, please consider joining the Operations Working Group. It doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to work there every week, just help lead the change. Interested Weston residents should email selectboard@westonma.gov as soon as possible.

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