Opinion: Tackling illegal dumping is a priority in Alameda County

Did you know that 75% or more of a mattress can be broken down and used to make new products such as carpet padding, mulch and appliances?

California is a world leader in environmentalism, and no region is as committed to sustainability as Alameda County. Working with my fellow supervisors, we have set the tone for the state on many environmental issues. We adopted an ambitious climate action plan, which has successfully reduced greenhouse emissions by more than 30% from our baseline emissions in 2003. We established a community-governed regional energy authority, East Bay Community Energy, to offer our 550,000 households a greener electricity choice. We introduced several programs to help our community embrace sustainability, such as the Green Business Program to help local businesses identify cost savings and gain a marketing edge by obtaining California Green Business certification. Over 550 Alameda County businesses and organizations are currently green certified, more than any other county. However, there is one area where we can improve – combating illegal dumping. 

Many people categorize illegal dumping as a public safety issue, but it is also an environmental issue. The chemicals and non-biodegradable materials in the waste affect the physical environment and the waterways by contaminating groundwater and soil. Waste can also spread into weeds and pests, therefore, affecting agriculture and the environment. Wildlife and domesticated animals can die after consuming poisonous materials such as plastics and chemicals. The illegal dumping of chemicals, tires, green waste and other highly flammable items can also pose a risk of wildfires. 

The best way to combat illegal dumping is through education. That’s why I want to take the time to remind Alameda County residents of the programs available to support bulky waste cleanup. 

Waste Management offers an annual Bulky Clean-up Event. Residents can schedule an individual pickup once per year at their convenience. Multifamily properties are also eligible for bulky item pickup, but service is dependent on the size and location of the property. More information can be found at www.wm.com.

Alameda County also participates in the Mattress Recycling Council’s (MRC) Bye Bye Mattress program, which recycles unwanted mattresses at no cost to California consumers, diverting them from landfills and helping to deter illegal dumping. Through mattress recycling, 75% or more of a mattress can be broken down and used to make new products. Components such as steel, foam, wood and cotton are reclaimed and made into carpet padding, mulch, appliances and hundreds of other consumer and industrial products. In Alameda County, six locations currently participate in the Bye Bye Mattress program. For more information, visit www.ByeByeMattress.com and use the locator to find your nearest drop-off location or an upcoming collection event. 

Residents in Berkeley have an additional opportunity to recycle their mattresses and box springs through an illegal dumping pilot program funded by MRC. The program offers two curbside pickup appointments to residential and multifamily properties. Visit www.cityofberkeley.info/mattress for details.

We take great pride in our sustainability and environmental efforts in Alameda County, which is why it can be tough when we come across illegal dumping of garbage and other bulky waste polluting our public spaces. We once again can lead the state in response and action. I implore all Alameda County residents to take advantage of the no-cost options to properly dispose of the items we encounter dumped along our streets. Together, we can ensure the beauty of our communities matches the beauty of its people and our commitment to a cleaner, healthier life. 

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson represents District 5, which includes Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Piedmont, and large portions of Oakland, namely the West Oakland, North Oakland, Rockridge, and Montclair neighborhoods, as well as portions of the Dimond, Bella Vista, and San Antonio districts.