October 4, 2022

Thrive Insider

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Efforts to Make a Cleaner Oakland

A major problem plaguing the city of Oakland has been illegal dumping, which is the practice of disposing of trash in undesignated areas. Not only does this result in unsightly messes strewn about the city, but it also devalues property, hinders the business community from attracting customers, and damages the environment. 

Illegal dumping attracts insects and other pests, causes weeds to spread, and releases toxic chemicals that harm humans, wildlife, the soil, and the water.

In this modern, consumer-oriented culture, people have a tendency to simply throw away what they no longer need, but this situation has become intolerable for the city and its residents. Here are some of the ways that community leaders and the city of Oakland are attempting to deal with this ongoing public health emergency.

Steeper Fines

Since 1968, fines for illegal dumping have been capped at $1,000. However, Oakland Measure RR, which passed by popular vote in November 2020, removes this limit on financial penalties. Public hearings are now underway to set a new higher cap on illegal dumping fines.

Hidden Cameras

Another deterrent to this unsightly and unsanitary problem is the placement of cameras near often-used illegal dumping sites. The Public Works Department has announced that these surveillance cameras are able to send high-quality video footage straight to the cell phones of law enforcement officers, and the footage can be used as evidence to prosecute those who dump illegally. 

The location of only one of the cameras was disclosed. The rest remain hidden and will hopefully act as deterrents to those who are unaware whether or not their illegal activities are being recorded.

Access to a Landfill

Something that in the past may have prevented Oakland residents from disposing of their trash in an authorized location is the expense. To mitigate this difficulty, the city of Oakland is allowing people to dump their waste at the San Leandro Waste Management Site for free

As long as they have an appointment, they can bring their furniture, mattresses, and other bulky items to the San Leandro landfill for disposal.

Additional Funding

The Office of the Alameda County District Attorney has recently received a grant of more than $2.3 million. It intends to utilize the Department of Transportation Clean California funding in partnership with Waste Management, the Downtown Streets Team, and Argent Materials, a local recycler, to enforce penalties against illegal dumping activities and work on getting the streets cleaned up. 

A spokesperson from the DA’s Office explained that disadvantaged communities often suffer more from the ramifications of illegal waste disposal. A special effort will be made to clean up trash that people dump in the vicinity of homeless encampments. 

The spokesperson emphasized the importance of a clean, safe environment for all the city’s residents.

In 2021, during a dedicated day of action, the DA’s Office listed “the three E’s of illegal dumping: education, eradication, and enforcement.” It is a combination of these three initiatives, as embodied by the efforts detailed above, that will enable Oakland to overcome its problems with illegal dumping.