If you’ve ever wondered why there’s so many mattresses, couches, and old dressers illegally dumped all over Oakland, you’re not alone.  You may even have been frustrated with trying to figure out how to get rid of a box spring or other large object, and been tempted to discard it under the nearest freeway.   If you’re like me, you called Waste Management to ask for a free bulky pickup service to get rid of the item – only to be rejected.   After all this,  it is no wonder there are bulky items discarded all over our streets.   These kinds of experiences bring into question the efficacy and design of the bulky goods service program in Oakland.

I looked into this a bit and thought about the program.   And as it turns out, there are changes to be made that would save the city money while cleaning up our streets from bulky dumped goods.

Here is the current system (which is clearly not working):

Single Family Units get one free three-yard bulky pickup per year, with the possibility of a second one that is distributed to 500 residents in the larger pool – first come, first serve.

Multi-Family Units (4 residential units or fewer) get service if the landlord schedules it.  Here are options for the landlord:

1) Schedule a 1 X 3 yard pickup

2) Schedule four 1  X 3 yard pickups at the same time (“multiple pickups”)

3) Don’t schedule a pickup for the tenant, because they all have been used, or save them just in case they will be needed later.

Apartment Buildings (5 or more units):  If you live in a building with 5 or more units in it, you are out of luck.  Landlords need to order a dumpster or special service, which they are unlikely to do.  As a resident of this type of building, you are not eligible to use the 500 pickups that are in the pool set aside for single family and multifamily bulky pickups.

Fortunately for me, I have a cooperative landlord.  (Those words are rarely found together in discussion about landlords.)  There’s no incentive for landlords to “give” the bulky pickup to a tenant that the landlord may want to use for themselves later.

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Does this program make sense?

The program is systemically difficult to use.  There are 400,000 residents in Oakland  but only those that own their home and are directly billed for garbage service can schedule their own bulky pickup.   Can anyone think of things that can be changed to the system that could help reduce illegal dumping?   Feel free to comment with your ideas.  I have a few.

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What you are seeing when you look at the far-to-common couch dumped along the road is a symptom of a much larger problem.   I hesitate to put a name to it, but it’s definitely a design problem. The residents of Oakland have fantastic ideas.  Currently, the City has priorities other than bulky trash pickup.  Oakland can only improve if the rich wealth of intelligence and creativity among its residents are used, and used well.

 — FYI —

For more information, click here to see the City of Oakland’s website regarding illegal dumping. (Oakland residents pay for this to be picked up by the city.)

Waste Management: (510) 613-8710 for all garbage services or to schedule bulky pickups  in Oakland.