OAKLAND -- A bill that would tack a fee onto new mattress purchases in order to keep used mattresses off the streets of Oakland, Richmond and many other cities across the state is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

The Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act, authored by Sens. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, and Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, seeks to remove the financial incentive to dump old mattresses on city streets rather than pay to drop them off at the dump.

The bill also would require mattress retailers to pick up used mattresses for free when delivering new mattresses and provide funds to cities that are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to pick up illegally dumped mattresses.

Abandoned mattresses are among trash along the railroad tracks in Newark, Calif.(Anda Chu/The Fremont Argus)
Abandoned mattresses are among trash along the railroad tracks in Newark, Calif. (Anda Chu/The Fremont Argus)

"Illegally dumped mattresses are a terrible blight on our communities," Hancock said in a prepared statement. "They not only deface a neighborhood, but they can become a health hazard and a breeding ground for mold and pests."

The bill, which lawmakers passed last week, has its roots in Oakland, where city leaders are introducing a series of measures to deal with a surge in illegally dumped furniture, appliances, tires and construction waste that cost taxpayers $3.3 million last year to remove.

Oakland typically spends about $500,000 every year to collect more than 5,000 mattresses dumped on city streets. The city of Richmond picked up 2,607 mattresses in 2012, Code Enforcement Manager Tim Higares said.

Higares said the city supported Hancock's bill but didn't think it would completely solve the problem. "I'm a realist," he said. "People are still going to dump mattresses."

Hancock's bill has the backing of the mattress industry. Manufacturers would propose a surcharge on the 4 million mattresses purchased every year in California that would fund anti-dumping and blight-abatement efforts.

The surcharge, which is expected to range from about $8 to $14 per mattress, would have to be approved by the state's recycling agency. Full implementation of the law would begin in January 2016.

Proceeds from the surcharge would offset fees currently charged by solid waste facilities for properly disposing of used mattresses. Those fees, which are typically more than $20 per mattress, have encouraged many haulers in the East Bay to dump mattresses for free, primarily in poorer, semi-industrialized sections of Oakland and Richmond.

Increased dumping in Oakland led the City Council this year to fund five additional blight-abatement workers and fund $300,000 for a program to cite illegal dumpers and make them pay civil penalties.

Later this month, Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney and City Attorney Barbara Parker are scheduled to introduce legislation that would make large-scale illegal dumping a criminal offense rather than a civil infraction.

West Oakland Biz Alert President Michael Herling, who brought concerns about mattress dumping to Hancock, said he is encouraged by the recent efforts to attack the problem.

"I feel like we're on the right course now," he said. "There is a political will now that we have not had in the past."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.