End of school year means start of garbage cleanup

By Bruce Gerstman, Special to the Daily Planet
Saturday May 04, 2002

Computer monitors, surfboards, desk lamps and the other detritus of the school year will soon begin to appear on Berkeley streets in an end-of-the-year ritual that irks the university and the city.  

While students study for final exams and prepare for their trips home, they often neglect to leave time to pack up, sell or donate their belongings. Instead, they move them into the street, says Adam Weinert, the recycling operations supervisor for the Campus Recycling and Refuse Services at UC Berkeley. 

“They're lazy, and they don't want to deal with it,” he said. 

Weinert helps make sure that the belongings students abandon, from common trash and clothing, to kitchen appliances and stereos, get picked up at the end of the year when the garbage load is far heavier than usual.  

While on a typical day the school's refuse service collects about 35 tons of garbage, it grows 43 percent the day after finals, to about 50 tons. This year, that day is Saturday, May 25, and Weinert expects the service's fleet of four trucks to head out for trash twice.  

During the week leading up to Saturday, the refuse service will be finding books, clothing, lamps and other abandoned items as they troll around in a flat-bed truck. They will bring what's still usable it to the Reuse Center, a thrift shop in Lower Sprawl Plaza where all items are free to university faculty, staff and students.  

But all of that comes only from dorms and graduate housing: residences for about 5,500 students. Then there's all the people moving out of homes unaffiliated with the University, like more than 60 fraternities, sororities and co-ops, which the City of Berkeley Public Works department serves.  

The public works department typically adds extra dumpsters near the fraternities and sororities. It's setting up 13 this year a few days before May 25.  

“There's tremendous demand on trash disposal,” said Becky Dowdakin, the public works recycling program manager. Dowdakin said public works paid about $8,000 in overtime last year for the same day. 

She said the public works department schedules its annual Bulky Waste pickup around the area of fraternities and sororities on May 25 so it coincides with the university's move-out day. It's the first week of ten weeks over the summer when Berkeley residents can leave their sofas, futons, rugs and other large household goods on the curb. 

For those items that are still in good condition, public works tries to inform the fraternities and sororities to leave out reusable stuff on Friday, May 24. That's when trucks from East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, Urban Ore and Good Will wander the area seeking merchandise to resell at a bargain. Then on Saturday, public works gathers whatever's left behind. 

Joseph Ayankoya, the Public Work's senior refuse supervisor, has collected working televisions, beds with frames, and washers and dryers that students have left in the past. He said that the students from out-of-town prefer not to bring everything back with them. And many don't care to donate.  

Ayankoya said that the most common items he sees left on the street are mattresses. His department hauled away 80 on the same day last year. 

“When they finish their finals, they just want to go,” he said.