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New state legislation aimed at curtailing illegal mattress dumping

on April 24, 2012

Every day, employees of the city of Oakland’s and the city of Richmond’s public works departments each collect around 30 abandoned mattresses. These discarded beds cause a litany of problems for a city—there’s the cleanup cost (about $500,000 annually for Oakland), they pose a public health risk by attracting insects and rodents, and contribute to neighborhood blight.

The issue of abandoned mattresses is a “regional problem” State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) said Monday during a press event in an area officials say is popular for dumping old mattresses, on Willow Street in West Oakland.

“That money could be spent keeping libraries open, keeping police on the street,” Hancock said of the funds spent on collecting mattresses. “Doing all the things that add to the quality of life. We don’t have a dime to waste on this sort of thing.”

Hancock said that later on Monday, she planned to introduce a bill, SB 1118, before the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality that would create a recovery and recycling program for used mattresses. There is currently no law that addresses illegally dumping mattresses, Hancock said, and many people don’t know how to get rid of an old mattress. The bill would require mattress manufacturers to pickup used mattresses bearing their brand name at any time, at no cost to the consumer. Or as an alternative to a pickup program, a mattress manufacturer could pay $25 per mattress sold in the state so CalRecycle could set up a state recycling program for them.

Oakland City Councilmembers Nancy Nadel (District 3) and Jane Brunner (District 1) and Richmond Police Department Code Enforcement Manager Tim Higares also spoke in favor of the bill during the press event on Monday.

“We are looking forward to the change in our neighborhood where we no longer see mattresses everywhere,” Nadel said.

Higares said that in Richmond, as in Oakland, the issue of discarded mattresses on the street is part of a larger problem involving illegal dumping. “Mattresses are a big piece of that issue,” he said, mentioning the city has collected 5,000 used mattresses in the past year and a half. He said they show up all over town as well. “They’re dumped in residential, commercial, vacant lots, middle of the street, you name it,” Higares said.

While the bill does give options to someone who wants to get rid of a mattress, it does not address enforcement. Nadel, who has lived near the Willow Street site for 30 years, said the problem of illegal dumping in West Oakland has been “going on for too long” and is “outrageous.” She said over the years the city has tried different ways to catch people dumping mattresses in the act, but to little avail. Mattresses can be picked up by Waste Management, which collects garbage in the city, if a bulk pickup is scheduled, but “not many people know about that,” Nadel said.

Nadel called the bill “a good start” and said fines need to be increased—the current fine is about $350, she said—and enforcement stepped up, so “we no longer have people who think it’s cheaper to dump it in the street than bring it to a recycler.”

The bill “will certainly give more opportunities for people to dispose of them in a responsible way,” she said. “We just need to make sure it’s advertised so that people know what the options are.”

Go here to find out how to schedule a bulky pickup in Richmond.

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