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Recycling helps reduce roadside litter in county
Although the problem involving some types of trash dumped along roadsides in rural San Joaquin County areas such as computers and television sets has been decreased by recycling, tires have not been. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Computers and other electronic gadgets that used to litter roadsides in the countryside have been disappearing.

Not because clean-up crews with the San Joaquin County Public Works Development or road maintenance workers have been taking care of these eyesores.

Apparently, there are some people who have been helping clean up the environment without putting a dent on taxpayers’ pocketbooks.

Whether these individuals are motivated environmental gurus, avid recyclers, or are simply victims of the tight economic times eking for a living is anybody’s guess.

The fact of the matter is, “you don’t see that so much anymore because there’s money in those – computers, old electronics, TV sets. So recycling is taking care of some of those things,” said Mike Selling of the county Public Works Department.

Usually, churches or schools benefit from those forms of recycling, he said.

“Even glass bottles. You don’t see those as much as you used to. Even scrap metal. There’s money to be made there; cardboard even,” he added.

Unfortunately, there are still a number of things that still dominate the litter landscape along the side of the road in rural areas like south Manteca and around the agricultural areas in Ripon.

“Couches – you still see that,” Selling said.

Car tires are another type of headache.

“Tires have always been a difficult one. That’s one that we’re still struggling with just because there are no real incentives and they are costly to either dispose of by melting them down, or just landfill them,” Selling said.

But there has been “a little bit of progress” when it comes to properly disposing the tires and turning them into a recyclable material, he said.

“I’ve seen playground materials that are made of shredded tires and are used to cushion children’s playgrounds,” Selling said.

Getting rid of illegal garbage or trash dumped along county roadsides is costing the county a “significant” amount of money, but there are no concrete numbers to demonstrate the exact cost, according to Selling.

Right now, the job of taking care of those eyesores have fallen on the shoulders of road maintenance crews. Those are the county workers who fix pot holes on the roads, restripe the roads, and keep things maintained. However, when they run into these piles of trash and they happen to be on county property, they pick them up and throw them into the dumpsters where they work or just haul them straight to the landfill. But they only do that “as opportunity allows,” Selling said.

The roadside area that is considered county-right-of-way is typically 20 feet to 30 feet from the center of a rural road which “might include the shoulder area” to where utility poles are situated. Utility poles usually offer the visual cue in determining whether trash on the roadside should be the responsibility of the property owner – most often, farmers – or the county, explained Selling.