Illegal dumping costing city millions of dollars
Residents might want to think twice about dumping that mattress on the street corner because the Department of Public Works is cracking down on people who put unwanted items on city streets.
The department began telling residents through a campaign launched in November that dumping anything on city streets is illegal. If caught, they can be subject to fines of up to $1,000.
“We just don't have the resources to keep sending staff out to pick up these items left out on the streets,” said Mohammed Nuru, deputy director for operations at Public Works.
Nuru said the cost of sending someone to pick up the items range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the number of items that need to be removed throughout the week.
On average, the department receives 17,000 calls a year about illegal dumping and hauls off 10,000 tons of such garbage, costing taxpayers more than $4 million annually.
The Bayview-Hunters Point area is a major location for dumping by contractors who illegally dispose of their construction materials. The department calls this corporate dumping. The San Francisco Police Department and the city attorney's office are working to catch those involved and recover costs for large-scale dumped items.
“The one thing we want to do is educate residents that it is illegal to dump and that there are other ways of getting rid of your things for free,” said Nuru.
A free solution is offered by Recology Sunset Scavenger Services for residential neighborhoods and Recology Golden Gate for local businesses. Customers can make an appointment with Recology twice a year to pick up as many as 10 items free. If Recology does not take the item, residents can visit the city's Department of Environment website and use the EcoFinder, which lists where and how to recycle just about anything.
The department is also working with neighborhood groups such as the United Fathers Coalition, a nonprofit organization in the Bayview, to educate people on properly disposing items and to call 311 to report illegal dumping or 911 if residents catch someone in the act.
“We want to ensure that the community knows about the free and convenient ways available to them to get rid of old junk, and to understand how sidewalk dumping negatively affects our community,” said Charles Grays, coalition executive director in a statement.
Public Works is also offering rewards for residents to turn in people who dump items illegally. A reward is being offered to find whoever dumped toxic roofing materials and shingles in the Bayview neighborhood in the past three months.
Nuru said the department would continue to monitor hot spots where illegal dumping is problematic, send out mailers, and post trilingual signs that dumping is illegal.
“We want to change people's mentality that if you put a piece of furniture on the street, DPW will eventually pick it up,” said Nuru. “We want residents to stop this practice.”
Free and low-cost ways of getting rid of junk
Recology Sunset Scavenger and Recology Golden Gate offer a free curbside pickup for residents. Pickup is available Monday through Friday. Residents can call before noon to schedule a pickup for the next business day.
Visit the Recology website to find out what items are acceptable for pickup and how to place items on the curb. Residents are allowed two curbside collections of up to 10 items per year free. Residents who surpass the 10 items or two curbside collections can arrange a pickup for a fee. Both homeowners and rental apartments are eligible for this service.
Customers of Recology Sunset Scavenger may call (415) 330-1300. Customers of Recology Golden Gate may call (415) 626-4000.
Visit the Department of Environment website and use the EcoFinder to find where and how to recycle items that are not accepted by Recology.
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About the Author
Jerold is a San Francisco native who covers Muni for the San Francisco Public Press. He has written stories for The Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times and San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in journalism.
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