Getting rid of junk is not easy, but Los Banos was up to that task last month during the city’s annual spring cleanup day. People brought lots of junk to the drop-off area by the fairgrounds, and Republic Services and the Merced County Regional Waste Authority accepted all of it.
This was the first time I had participated in the event — by bringing junk and waste in my neighbor Art’s pickup truck and waiting in a long line of vehicles that stretched for four blocks. After an hour of moving up inch by inch, when I entered the large parking lot on F Street, a friendly young woman told me the site would accept everything I brought, including paint, oil, pesticides, a tire and an old TV.
My collection of junk was nothing compared to the stuff I saw in the back of pickup trucks of all shapes and sizes in front of me. Among the junk I saw brought and left at the site were mattresses, grills, lawnmowers, sofas, computers, batteries and lumber.
What impressed me most was the army of people at the site, as well as the many different stations spread out over the large parking lot, with each station assigned to take specific junk.
A friendly person at the entrance directed me to my first station, collecting household hazardous waste. When it was my turn, several men wearing protective clothing and gloves took out of the truck bed large buckets and small cans of paint, a container of linseed oil, several cans of motor oil, various aerosols and several bottles of pesticides. I admired the bravery of these guys to handle all the containers of fluids, sorting and depositing them into appropriate bins.
Then I was directed to another area where tires were being collected. I got out and flung mine into a trailer containing just tires. Then another fellow pointed me to a place where I could drop off my television set.
While waiting in that line for what I might call the miscellaneous collection station, I saw people toss out bicycles, lawnmowers, barbecues, even a steel pole anchored by a chunk of concrete. When it was my turn, a friendly fellow helped me take the heavy old TV out of the truck and heave it into a large bin.
Twenty minutes after I had entered the collection site, I was driving out, relieved of my mostly toxic burden. The hour wait in the slow moving vehicle parade was worth it.
And then I reflected on how grateful I am that Los Banos and Merced County jointly have a cleanup day. It allows residents to get rid of junk and waste that clutter up their homes, garages and yards. It makes neighborhoods cleaner, removing unsightly stuff from front and side yards, and it helps the environment.
I realize I could have loaded up a truck and driven it out to the Billy Wright Road landfill west of town. And I would’ve paid a fee to unload the truck and other fees for some of the items in the truck bed. But I would have procrastinated endlessly. Having a specific date to drop things off for free gave me the incentive to do it now.
I have to give credit to the city and county working together, and businesses that were part of the May 18 event — Republic Services, which handles garbage pickup in Los Banos, and Clean Harbors, which works with the Merced County Regional Waste Authority.
They provided enough employees and stations to make the event efficient and successful, turning a day which could have been chaotic into a time when people kept cool and calm as they waited and eventually dumped their stuff.
I wonder what happened to all the items and fluids collected. It was tough enough for workers to accept it all. Where it all went after that and what happened to it remains a mystery. I trust that all of it, especially the hazardous waste, was dealt with in a way that did minimum damage to the environment.
I also thought about the overall issue of recycling after recent news that countries like China are no longer accepting recyclable materials the U.S has been sending them. I would hope that people and technology in America today could figure out a way to economically recycle products without essentially dumping them on other countries.
As we, our children and our grandchildren look to the future, recycling and the related issue of climate change are just two many challenges that face future generations. I hope enough people realize the severity of the challenges and use their talents and creativity to keep our Earth alive and thriving.
Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to the fall cleanup day in Los Banos. I might just borrow a truck again and bring more of my junk to the local collection site.