SANTA CRUZ -- The city of Santa Cruz and two nonprofit reuse organizations collected 80 tons of mattresses, appliances and other bulky trash this summer after launching a joint outreach program with UC Santa Cruz to minimize dumping stemming from students leaving off-campus housing.
The Santa Cruz Resource Recovery division, in partnership with Goodwill and Hope Services, collected 46 tons of garbage during a five-week period beginning June 3 from the curbs of students moving out, staff told the Public Works and Transportation Commission on Monday. Another 34 tons were collected through the end of July but couldn't be tied to students.
After being notified of the program through UCSC email and other promotions, 152 students registered for the free bulky trash pickup. A coupon for free pizza was offered to the first 100 participants.
Amid an increase in illegal dumping in the past couple years, the city and UCSC's Sustainability Office created the program to reduce pollution in watersheds and divert reusable or recyclable materials from the Dimeo Lane landfill. Of the 80 tons of garbage collected, 4.3 tons were diverted through recycling and reuse.
The city offers residents the opportunity to schedule twice yearly bulky pickup, which is included in their rates. But the city charges a fee for nonscheduled collections, and other illegal dumping is taking an increasing toll on staff.
"What is very typical is somebody puts out material at a house with a sign that says 'Free, take me,'" Bob Nelson, superintendent of Resource Recovery, told the Sentinel. "So it sits out there and doesn't go away, and next week, it starts moving down the street."
Commission Chair Richelle Noroyan, who worked with UCSC to develop the program, said, "We made a very strong environmental message and gave very specific instructions about why putting a giant pile of things out with a free sign really wasn't a good idea. It sounds like a generous, wonderful thing to do, but once we explained it, we got responses from students, saying 'I never thought of that aspect.'"
UCSC's government relations director, Donna Blitzer, said during the summer, "We did notice a pretty dramatic decrease in complaints from neighbors. We were able to see we were having an impact on those complaints. So we hope to build the program and keep it going."
The city expects in 2014 to put together a move-out packet that better explains recycling and refuse opportunities, create student drop-off sites and garage sales, and better record illegal dumping.
"As this program matures, one of the things we are really pushing is trying to get people to think ahead about how to use craiglist, Freecycle or other resources out there to reduce things that have to go to the landfill," Nelson said.
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©2013 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.)
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