EYE ON THE ENVIRONMENT | COMMUNITY CLEAN UP HAS COME A LONG WAY
by David Goldstein
Until the 1950s, disposing waste was often a community affair in Ventura County. Neighbors hauled each other’s discards, caravanned or met up at local dumps, sometimes returning home with more material scavenged than disposed.
Some of these sites, such as the publicly owned Ojai Valley burn dump, burned flammable items at the end of each day. Other sites, such as Robert Walker’s “See’ers by the Sea,” in Ventura, charged for the right to scavenge. Over three decades ago Walker, recalling the glory days of his business, told me his company’s name was a pun for “Sears,” jokingly comparing his operation to the biggest local retailer of the time.
Now, in contrast, efficient waste collection companies or municipal fleets serve our communities with professional collection. Collectors contract with cities or the county, earning the exclusive right to charge for picking up residential garbage and recyclables, and using uniform carts placed neatly at our curbs. These contracts generally require collectors to provide a provision for free disposal and recycling of items too large to fit in curbside carts.
One way the local collectors meet this obligation is to offer residents free curbside bulky item pickup. By request, residents outside cities can have two items collected, up to twice per year. In most cities the limit is two items, one time per year.
For example, the cities of Ventura, Ojai, Fillmore and Camarillo contract with their residential hauler, E. J. Harrison and Sons, for free bulky item pickup service to residents. Once each year, residents are allowed to place up to two mattresses, couches or other items at their curb for free collection. To use this service, residents must first call the hauler at 805-647-1414 and arrange for pickup.
Some local haulers are also contractually required to meet the free bulky item collection obligation by helping jurisdictions host community cleanup days. For example, the Ventura County Public Works Agency will host 10 free events between April 23 and Oct. 22 exclusively for residents of targeted unincorporated communities.
Similar events are planned in cities. For example, the next event for city of Ventura residents — ID or utility bill required — will be May 21. Approximately 300 appointment slots are available online at https://form.jotform.com/220454392171148 or by calling 805-652-4525. The city’s appointment form also requires participants to answer an important question. “Have you looked into donation or reuse options for items in good condition?”
Although many of these events have a reuse area, where the best items delivered are pulled aside for others to take, these exchanges, harkening back to the days of See’ers by the Sea, regularly fail to rescue all items of value. The end of many cleanups includes disposing items left in the reuse area.
The city of Oxnard, in addition to scheduling free curbside bulky item pickup, also provides residents with free drop-off days at the Del Norte Recycling and Transfer Station and in their neighborhoods. At the next scheduled neighborhood event, on Aug. 13, each of the city’s four regions will separately have roll-off boxes available at a central location for free recycling and disposal. Residents, verified by ID or utility bill, will be allowed to discard bulky items as well as recycle electronic waste and tires without rims, items not allowed at some other events.
Residents of Simi Valley, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks and adjacent unincorporated communities benefit from a contractual partnership between the county and Waste Management’s (WM) Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. These residents are allowed free use of the Simi Landfill on designated days each year. The Simi Landfill maximizes recycling on these days with separate areas for concrete, asphalt, yard clippings/wood, tires, mattresses, metal and appliances.
Additionally, through a new contract with Athens Services, Thousand Oaks residents also have access to Calabasas Landfill, where they can dispose of up to two vehicle loads during three free days each year.
Due to landfill operations and the presence of heavy equipment, no scavenging is allowed at landfills. The days of community gatherings at dumps have been replaced by efficient and safe management of discards. All of the new “spring cleaning” programs, however, are still important to prevent illegal dumping and increase recycling while cutting participants’ disposal costs.
More information is online at:
David Goldstein, Environmental Resource Analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.