Until the 1950s, disposing waste in Ventura County was often a community affair. Neighbors hauled each other’s throwaways to local dumps, sometimes returning home with more stuff 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 dumps, such as Robert Walker’s “See’ers by the Sea” in Ventura, charged scavengers. More than 30 years ago, Walker told me his company’s name was a pun for “Sears,” jokingly comparing the operation he began in the early 1950s to the nation’s biggest retailer of the time.
Today, we have professional companies or municipal fleets collecting our trash. 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 for free disposal and recycling of items too large for 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 a year. In most cities, the limit is two items once a year.
For example, Ventura, Ojai, Fillmore and Camarillo contract with Harrison Industries for the free bulky item pickups. Once a year, residents can place up to two mattresses, couches or other large discards at their curb for free collection. To use this service, residents must first call Harrison (647-1414) and arrange for the pickup.
Some local haulers are also required to host community cleanup days. The Ventura County Public Works Agency, for example, will host 10 free events between April 23 and October 22 for residents of certain unincorporated communities.
Similar events are planned in cities. For example, Ventura’s next cleanup event will be May 21. About 300 appointments are available for the city’s residents — verified by an I.D. or utility bill — at cityofventura.ca.gov/es or by calling 652-4525. The appointment form requires participants to answer an important question: “Have you looked into donation or reuse options for items in good condition?”
Many of these events have a reuse area where the best items delivered are pulled aside for others to take, harkening back to the days of See’ers by the Sea. These exchanges, however, regularly fail to rescue all items of value.
Oxnard also has free drop-off days for its residents at the Del Norte Recycling and Transfer Station and in their neighborhoods. At the next event, on Aug. 13, each of the city’s four regions will have dumpsters at a central location for recycling and disposal. Residents, verified by an I.D. or utility bill, can discard bulky items and recycle electronic waste and tires (no rims).
Residents of Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and adjacent unincorporated communities benefit from a contractual partnership between the county and Waste Management’s Simi Valley Landfill and Recycling Center. These residents have free use of the landfill on certain days. The Simi landfill maximizes recycling on these days, separating disposal areas by waste type: concrete, asphalt, yard clippings/wood, tires, mattresses, metal and appliances.
Under a new contract with Athens Services, Thousand Oaks residents also have access to Calabasas Landfill, where they can dispose up to two vehicle loads on three free days a year.
Scavenging is no longer allowed at landfills and the days of community gatherings at dumps have been replaced by efficient and safe management of discards. But today’s waste management is still a community affair with free pickup and drop-off days that curb illegal dumping, increase recycling and cut participants’ disposal costs.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at (805) 658-4312 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Eco-tip: Spring cleaning ain’t what it used to be in Ventura County