MONADNOCK PROFILES: Living large in the recycling world

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford, Peterborough Recycling Center manager, proclaims himself to be a jack of all trades and a master of none. He builds birdhouses, gardens and generally enjoys being outside. He even survived a tornado in 1997 when he was the head of the Greenfield Recycling Center. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Scott Bradford. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/8/2019 10:32:13 AM

Scott Bradford likes to think of his work as the head of the Peterborough Recycling Center as doing his little part to help the environment.

For more than 30 years, Bradford has been making sure residents in Peterborough, Sharon and Greenfield understand the importance of separating what can be recycled from their household trash. He got a job at 18 at the Greenfield facility, working his way up to manager before coming to Peterborough almost 19 years ago. Maybe that’s why Mother Nature decided to spare the 49-year-old Antrim resident when a tornado ripped through the Greenfield location on July 3, 1997.

It was a Thursday evening and according to Bradford’s battery operated office clock, the recycling center was only open for another five minutes. It said 6:55 p.m., but Bradford remembers being curious why he hadn’t seen any residents in a while since a Thursday night during the summer was typically busy right up until closing time. It had rained earlier that day and the sky turned dark with swirls of green and purple, and the wind was whipping.

He popped outside and saw pieces of sheet metal starting to blow around and then came the crack of what he estimated was seven to ten, 75- to 100-foot tall pine trees breaking off. But the debris from the pines went up and not down, and that’s when Bradford knew he needed to get inside, so he ran into the recycling building.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” Bradford said. “But the whole building then exploded over my head.”

With stuff flying everywhere, he took off for the highway department building down the hill, breaking into it to get away from the storm, and used the CB radio in one of the trucks to call for help.

“I didn’t see the twister or funnel cloud,” he said. “But the world was ending for all I knew.”

When it was all said and done, the small shack where his office was somehow still upright, but was riddled with broken glass and metal stuck in the walls. Where he was standing in the recycling building was where the 8-foot by 12-foot swap shop shed landed in many pieces. He had a long superficial cut across his neck from what he still doesn’t know.

“I don’t know how I lived,” he said.

And it turns out, Bradford shouldn’t have even been there because it was actually 7:55 p.m., almost an hour after his day typically came to an end, but a dying battery caused the clock to slow. 

While he considers it to be his 15-minutes of fame, landing on the news and on the front page of papers across the state, Bradford leads quite the life – when he’s not leading the charge to better the world around him and outrunning tornadoes.

He’s always been a lover of nature, which is probably what led him to the field of recycling. When he moved to a farm in Hancock at the age of nine, it just so happened to be down the road from the town dump and if the wind blew just right when the burn pit was roaring, you can imagine the kind of smells that came floating by.

He’s not sure why he was drawn to working with trash, glass bottles and cardboard – maybe it was because he was offered a job in Greenfield and seemed like a good opportunity. But there has always been a pull to be more environmentally conscious. When he first took the job in Greenfield, recycling wasn’t nearly what it is today. There was no second thought about putting florescent light bulbs in the trash.

“There was some recycling at the time, but not a lot,” he said.

But things started to change and he likes to think he was on the cutting edge of it, making a big impact on the way the town deals with its waste. Then in 2000, he came to Peterborough and has seen a continued progression to where it is today.

“I like to think when I left Greenfield, I had put them on the map,” Bradford said.

He gives tours to other towns looking to learn more about how Peterborough does it. He’s even heard to refer to the facility as “the Ritz Carlton of recycling centers.”

“It makes you feel really good, but on the other hand I’m just doing my job,” Bradford said. “And this facility isn’t what it is now just because of me.”

Bradford describes himself as a “jack of all trades, master of none.”

“Pretty well self taught with a little advice here and there,” he said.

He bought a new house on a 20-acre property in Antrim this winter that’s out in the woods and abuts the new wind project, Bradford said, and has big plans for the coming year. He’ll be taking the year off of gardening to get the property in order.

“It’s a blank slate and it’s going to be a lot of work,” Bradford said.

There is currently a greenhouse setup established by the previous owner, but he sold the greenhouse and will use the raised beds already there for next year.

“Nobody ever taught me, but thankfully I was born with a green thumb,” he said.

Some have likely seen his handy work at the recycling center over the years.

“Why should a town recycling center look different then the parks and outside the town offices,” Bradford said. “And the resident, from the comments we’ve gotten over the years, I feel are very proud of this facility.”

Bradford is big into perennials and vegetables, growing the kind of things he likes to eat. He loves to be outdoors and hiking through the woods is his get away. The plan is to put in a permanent camping spot on his property, which will be aided by repurposed material for a platform from the deck Bradford plans to replace. He’s always thinking about ways to recycle and reuse.

And if he hears a bird chirping away outside, he’ll take out the binoculars for a closer look.

“One of the first things I did after I unpacked some stuff was set up my bird feeders,” Bradford said. “I couldn’t tell you why I love birds, I just do.”

He builds and sells birdhouses, although that hobby has also been put on hold for the last two years due to getting his old house ready to sell and the required work that his new property will need. But after a friend got him into the trade, Bradford connected with a Hancock man who had milled pine planks many years prior that are perfect for the task. The wood was just sitting there with no real purpose, so Bradford will remove the top layer and the boards are as good as new. He has 11 different designs, but the finished products are never the same.

“To build a birdhouse and watch one nest in it is just amazing,” he said. “I’ve got one birdhouse left and that’s going up on my property.”

That’s because he uses materials he finds from metal detecting to decorate. Bradford has found old coins and jewelry, small decorative pieces of metal when searching the beach or woods. He was even asked to help search for a wedding band and engagement ring on the beach of Nantucket, but never found them.

He collects old signs, many of which he’s come across on the job, and once had a painting business. Apparently he’s also quite the interior decorator, at least that’s what his real estate agent told him.

But really Bradford is a homebody. He enjoys projects around the house, getting dirt underneath his fingernails and is hoping to catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive mountain lion on one of his game cams.

It sure is a good thing he’s faster than a tornado.


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