The Right Way to Dispose of Big Stuff (Hint: Don’t Just Leave It Outside)

Dumped mattress in Bernal Heights

Why do this when Recology will take it from your curb at no extra charge?

It goes without saying that the citizenry of Bernalwood was outraged by the recent rash of dumping incidents on Bernal Hill.

But while we’re on the topic of dumping, the Bernalwood Research Department has uncovered an interesting litter-related fact: The majority of the 20 million pounds of abandoned crap our cash-strapped city cleans up every year, to the tune of four million dollars, does not come from piles of construction debris left by miscreants skulking about under cover of darkness.

Nope. “The bulk of what we pick up is innocent household items just set out on sidewalk,” says Greg Crump of the Department of Public Works.

We’ve all seen this kind of small-scale dumping: that splotchy mattress slouching against the side of a building, or that lopsided media cabinet optimistically adorned with a “Free” sign in the mini-park.

Which means that some inhabitants of our fair dominion are, apparently, doing it.

Not that you ever would, of course. But if you happen to see or know of anyone whose idea of spring cleaning is leaving their oversize clutter on the sidewalk, please spread the word: THERE IS A BETTER WAY, and it’s EASY.

Just go to or call 330-1300 and tell the fine folks at Recology Sunset Scavenger what you’ve got and when you want them to haul it away. (I recommend calling, despite the annoying recording you have to listen to, because even if you fill out the online form, you’ll still have to call later.)

Why expend the very minimal effort required to do this?

Reason #1: It’ll probably be free, because—get this—if you have garbage pickup, you’re already paying for this service (more on that later).

Reason #2: Your stuff is less likely to end up in the landfill. Over 60% of what Recology collects is recycled, public relations manager (and Bernalwood resident!) Robert Reed told me. “If you illegally dump, you’re creating an environmental problem,” he says. “Let’s say you abandon a mattress. How long before a dog comes along and lifts a leg, or it rains? If it gets moldy or something, at least part of that thing is going to just get tossed.”

Properly-disposed-of mattresses, by the way, are taken to … the largest mattress recycler in North America(!), a place called DR3, which happens to be in the East Bay. Between 85 and 90 percent of each mattress DR3 gets its hands on finds a new life, including the wood, the steel springs, and the outside material. “The foam gets turned into carpet padding, and a portion of the cotton actually ends up in the oil industry, to help clean up oil spills,” says DR3 manager Robert Jaco.

Reason #3: You won’t be inviting yet more blight to our glamorous neighborhood. Nuff said.

But what if you don’t have any bulky-item pickups left? This can happen. If you live in a single-family home, you’re entitled to two collections of up to 10 big items a year at no extra charge. If you live in a multi-unit building, you only get one.

But not to worry! If you’re out of curbside collections and you can’t sweet-talk your neighbor into letting you share one of theirs, you can still schedule a pickup. It won’t be free, but it won’t break the bank either. And if you can’t or don’t want to schlep your cast-offs to the curb, Recology will handle the lugging. “We collect stuff from garages,  houses, storage rooms,” Reed says. “We even carry mattresses right out of the bedroom.”

A bevy of free options exist for getting rid of non-broken furniture, appliances, etc. The Salvation Army has a conveniently close drop-off location at 26th and San Jose, but you can also have them come to you. United Cerebral Palsy of the Golden Gate will also come to you — and they send also trucks to our neighborhood every few months to pick up usable items and even e-waste; watch for their flyers in your mailbox to get a heads-up.

But whatever you do, don’t just abandon your stuff outside, or the dumping terrorists have already won!

PHOTO: Bronwyn Ximm

19 thoughts on “The Right Way to Dispose of Big Stuff (Hint: Don’t Just Leave It Outside)

  1. Good post. I think one should be able to email for appointments for Recology, etc. and not be restricted to phones. Also, one can try to sell them at the upcoming Hillwide garage sales day. If they don’t think they can sell certain items, they can offer them FREE, with a big sign, on that day as there will be lots of people walking around who will notice it. If they can’t carry it home right then, they could come around later with a truck or something to pick it up.

  2. This is an excellent, informative post. For non-bulky items in acceptable condition, I also recommend posting them to the Bernal Parents listserv, offering to give them away for free. You’d be amazed at how many people will want your old things! serves a similar purpose (in case you’re not on the BH Parents list).

  3. very good piece, Todd. Thank you for being so proactive and providing so much good accurate information! you are a saint!

  4. Excellent post. I’m sending this off to my little Mission neighborhood group. Thanks Bronwyn!

  5. Also, Craigslist. I’ve dealt with my share of Craigslist flakes when trying to sell things, but I’ve never had a problem when I’ve posted in the “Free” section and left my item out on my driveway. It’s usually gone within an hour or so. Even crappy, disassembled Ikea furniture.

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  7. I always put things outside my house with a free sign.. 99% of the time they are gone within an hour or two. If they’re not gone by dark I’ll haul them back inside and take ’em to the dump next time I’m headed that way.

  8. Hypothesis:

    Measured by mass over time, the San Francisco Examiner is the biggest culprit for dumping in Bernal.


    • Totally! I have a half-baked idea to poll everyone on my block to see if they want to receive it. I would then contact the Examiner and say they can just skip our block entirely, except for whatever one or two people want it. Because trying to opt out as a single house DOES NOT WORK. I think those opt-out forms on the website just go into a netherworld — a dump, if you will.

  9. Another excellent post from Todd on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. As we speak, there’s a TV that’s been sitting on Precita Avenue for three days now. Do the former owners of this relic really think someone is going to take it away, especially now that rain has already fallen on it? A little further down the street I can still see the char marks on the sidewalk where more than once someone has torched an abandoned mattress or unwanted dresser.

    People who dump illegally have no class.

  10. I spied that mattress in the photo too! I don’t mind seeing the mattresses, actually. They always take on a shlumpy human like quality that can be fun and animated. I especially like the dressers with drawers half missing and falling out as well.

  11. Hopefully the idiot’s at the corner of Jarboe and Nevada see this and stop putting out USED 30 year old toilets!

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