Riverside CUREs Dumping and Cleans Up the Environment

The City of Riverside won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Public Works, Infrastructure and Transportation category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

In 1989, AB 939 drastically changed solid waste management and planning processes. It required cities to implement plans to handle hazardous waste and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills by 50 percent by the year 2000. Riverside met these challenges and more with a comprehensive program for cleaning up the city’s environment.

In 1989, AB 939 drastically changed solid waste management and planning processes. It required cities to implement plans to handle hazardous waste and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills by 50 percent by the year 2000. Riverside met these challenges and more with a comprehensive program for cleaning up the city’s environment.

Prior to AB 939, few households had access to curbside recycling, and those that did were required to sort their own recyclables. To meet the new AB 939 requirements, city staff determined that convenient recycling was the key to success; automation and accessibility were the answers to meeting AB 939 goals.

As part of Riverside’s automated collection program, single-family households received three 96-gallon containers: one for trash, one for green waste and one for commingled recycling. By 2000, the city successfully met AB 939 goals. However, changes in technology and a rapidly growing population created a new set of challenges.

When landfills banned acceptance of computers, TVs, cathode ray tubes and other electronic waste, the limited availability of e-waste disposal resources contributed to an emerging trend in Riv erside: illegal dumping. In 2003, the City of Riverside recognized a sharp increase in incidents of illegal dumping –160 per cent over a five-year period. In addition, the Code Enforcement division reported that 19 percent of its calls were trash re lated. A waste audit revealed that common materials being dumped illegally included mattresses, refrigerators, computers, TVs and tires. All these items were too large to fit in curbside containers or were hard- to-dispose-of hazardous materials. Again, the solution was to provide businesses and residents with convenient disposal options.

Building Options Through Collaboration

The Clean Up Riverside’s Environment (CURE) program’s goal was to manage recyclable and hazardous waste and address the related problem of illegal dumping by offering convenient, flexible and frequent disposal options. CURE’s objectives were to:

  • Make a marked difference in the overall appearance of neighborhoods and business districts; and
  • Promote a clean city as a general value to have and uphold among citizens and the business community.

To achieve these objectives, the CURE program sought to:

  • Expand the variety and frequency of disposal options available to residents;
  • Increase prevention of illegal dumping and compliance of municipal codes through enforcement;
  • Maintain a proactive and reactive public right-of-way cleanup; and
  • Increase public education.

To implement CURE, the city joined with multiple partners including nonprofits and public and private sector entities. Local nonprofit partners provided expertise in planning and recruiting volunteers for the community-based cleanups. Re gional nonprofits provided buying power for radio advertising, recycling-related items and marketing materials.

The Public Works Department also collaborates with other city departments in several ways:

  • Code Enforcement administers a Private Property Voucher Program to provide free dumpsters for low-income residents cited for trash accumulation;
  • The Solid Waste and Streets Department assists with the right-of-way cleanup program;
  • City Engineering participates in a rubberized asphalt program using recycled tires for surface material;
  • The City Attorney’s Office drafted a Vehicle Seizure Ordinance;
  • The Police Department enforces the illegal dumping ordinance;
  • The Office of Neighborhoods coordinates neighborhood volunteer groups to clean up and identify dumping hot spots;
  • The Parks and Recreation Department furnishes park sites for bulky item community collection events; and
  • The City Manager’s Office provides marketing assistance and overall program support.

Outside public agencies are also partners in CURE, and the city and county contract to collect household hazardous waste up to four times a year.

A large part of the education effort was accomplished through volunteers. Community groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts of America, faith-based and service groups, local high schools, and the city’s four universities and colleges provide volunteers for CURE events and offer environmental educational opportunities, particularly for school-age youth.

In addition, Riverside’s franchised refuse haulers partnered with the city to increase disposal options. Their support provided operational input and waste collection, hauling and recycling expertise to most of the CURE events.

The Numbers Show Success

In 2003, the first year of the program, the city served 1,962 vehicles dropping off waste at collection events. In 2006, that number jumped to 9,582 vehicles and stabilized at 9,575 in 2007. The pro gram met all environmental, residential, business and regulatory goals. Its success results from modifying consumer behavior through education and increased, conven-ient disposal options.

From inception to 2007, the program collected nearly 9,764 tons of material, and collection of recyclable and hazardous materials increased significantly:

  • Electronic waste — up 569.5 percent;
  • Green waste — up 347.7 percent;
  • Household hazardous waste — up 110.3 percent; and
  • Tires — up 178.9 percent.

The following results also indicate CURE’s success in meeting goals: Bulky item collection increased by 1,404 percent. Roadside litter collection dropped by 68.8 percent. CURE made an im portant difference in the appearance of neighborhoods and business districts.

The cost of this program for 2006-07 was approximately $168,000, part of which was made possible by grants from the Department of Conservation Division of Recycling and the California Integrated Waste Management Board for Used Oil Recycling.

Planning and Communication Create Success

Programs of this magnitude are success ful when they are developed methodically and include city staff, industry experts and community groups in planning and implementation.

CURE evolved by expanding on a solid foundation of programs developed for AB 939. After each CURE event, staff evaluated what worked and what didn’t. These meetings resulted in more effective systems to recycle more vehicles through events, improved safety systems, better coordination with other community events and improved marketing.

A combination of careful planning, ongo ing program enhancements and development, marketing, a flexible and positive staff, and widespread support of CURE at all levels — especially the public- private partnerships — all contributed to CURE’s success.

Contact: Diann Paul, senior administrative analyst, Public Works Department, City of Riverside; phone: (951) 826-5689; e-mail: Dpaul@riversideca.gov.

This article appears in the July 2008 issue of Western City
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