By Dominic Williams
Illegal dumping and excessive litter is a problem that affects everybody. On the surface, the issue of may appear to be too large to tackle. However, as local community groups, nonprofits, and engaged residents have proven, progress can be made when support comes from the ground up. To tackle the issue, many localities have had to get creative.
San Jose Recruits the Homeless: This program pays the homeless $15 per hour to clean up the streets and is a partnership between the city, Goodwill, and the Downtown Streets Team.
East Palo Alto Launches Shame Campaigns: The city posts public pictures of illegal dumpers, institutes a $1,000 fine for illegally dumping and provides a $500 reward for information about illegal dumpers. The city has received criticism that this campaign amounts to “public flogging” of illegal dumpers, but this imperfect solution is having positive impacts, especially for residents that live near illegal dumping hot spots. One hotspot for dumping, the area in front of the Ecumenical Hunger Program, has been clear for weeks since the signs were erected.
Oakland hosts Bulky Block Parties: People can drop off bulky junk that would likely end up on the streets. The initial Block Parties were incredibly successful, collecting more than 157 tons of waste, and are now a permanent fixture on the last Saturday of every month. The city also committed to hiring three “litter enforcement officers” that will identify where the trash is coming from and who is dumping it, but those positions have yet to be filled. Oakland Community Organizations—a coalition of local churches, residents, and unions that advocated alongside Save The Bay for more city resources dedicated to illegal dumping—continues to push for these officers to be hired.
Adopt-a-Drain: Oakland and San Francisco program that allows volunteers to aid in the maintenance and cleaning of a storm drain in their area. A similar initiative called Adopt-a-Hotspot is being launched across Alameda County.
Oakland Bulky Pickup Services: Residents can place their junk on the curb and have it picked up by city employees. Single families, multi-family residences, and property managers can request this service by calling 510.613.8710 or by following the directions on the website. Renters are entitled to one free bulky pickup per living unit per year and provision of access to these services by property managers is required by law.
Cities and counties must be held accountable for their role, but it’s on all of us to consciously decide to be a part of the solution, not the problem. Aside from ensuring that all of our trash is properly disposed of and everything that can be recycled is recycled, you can help by volunteering through any one of many organizations that are tackling our trash issues.
What impact will you have on our Bay in 2019? This list of organizations is a great place to start.