Locals may be spotting more woeful-looking couches, TVs and other abandoned furniture on the curbs of Santa Barbara streets, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The increase in seemingly left-behind eyesores actually indicates residents are taking advantage of a new municipal program offered through MarBorg Industries. City officials say the initiative could even help prevent future illegal dumpings.
For the past year, MarBorg has offered single-family homes two free bulky item pickups instead of one — a change negotiated in a 10-year contract that MarBorg and the city agreed to, effective last July.
For the first time, multiunit complexes were also granted the two-a-year free service, which includes transporting an unlimited amount of items to the recycling facility for sorting and then to the city landfill.
Since the switch, MarBorg has seen a 33-percent increase in the number of annual cleanup requests related to the program that does collections on Mondays and Wednesdays, according to MarBorg business manager Derek Carlson.
MarBorg carried out 7,386 free customer cleanups in the past year, with multifamily customers accounting for 434 of them, Carlson said.
“It’s certainly more beneficial for the jurisdictions,” he said, noting Goleta and other areas also made the change. “They were previously paying for it, so it’s great for the residents.”
MarBorg typically charges $100 to $200 for a pickup, accounting for a $45 collection fee and a landfill disposal charge of $83 per ton, Carlson said.
All illegal dumping collections on city streets and creek beds — thousands annually — MarBorg picks up for free, a condition the company volunteered in its contract with the city.
Carlson said MarBorg performed 1,219 of those in the last year.
Those who discard furniture and other belongings at apartment complexes leave the responsibility for their disposal with that private property owner, according to city code, said Matt Fore, the city’s environmental services manager.
Instead of hauling items away themselves, property owners already paying the garbage bills can use the new program.
Some larger properties are even setting up collection days, asking all tenants to gather unwanted items for pickup.
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara has been using the cleanup service once a week for the past two months as annual inspections are done at housing complexes, which typically have high turnover rates.
The new service saved the agency having to pay to send maintenance staff to collect items, said Skip Szymanski, COO and deputy executive director.
Fore thinks the biannual pickups could go a long way to prevent abandonment by locals who either don’t have a truck to transport items themselves or are easily deterred by tipping fees at the dump.
A resident pays $21 to drop off a carload weighing less than 500 pounds to the South Coast Recycling & Transfer Station on Calle Real, said Leslie Wells, solid waste program specialist for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department.
“All those things we used to see in illegal dump piles we’re seeing on the curb,” Fore said. “A lot of property managers certainly had to deal with it. One of the reasons why we’re seeing more piles is because this is something that the resident arranges with MarBorg.
“It’s actually good news that we’re seeing that. Our bigger message is that it’s available, and we really encourage people to use it.”
Fore encouraged residents requesting the service to clean out their garages or attics to get rid of as much as possible.
Residents can contact MarBorg’s main telephone line to ask for one of their free annual cleanups at 805.963.1852. MarBorg doesn’t take hazardous waste, and picking up electronics requires two separate trucks.
Fore said locals should still call the city if they notice furniture abandoned in the neighborhood for several days on end — just in case.