Spring Clean-Up Days, another springtime ritual in Merced

Mini-vans, pick-up trucks, SUVs, and cars line up to drop off their owners’ stuff at Spring Clean-Up Days in Merced. Photo- Steve Newvine

Mini-vans, pick-up trucks, SUVs, and cars line up to drop off their owners’ stuff at Spring Clean-Up Days in Merced. Photo- Steve Newvine

You know springtime has arrived when you’re making a second or third trip to the home improvement center to pick up additional bags of mulch for the lawn.

It’s spring when you realize that there is now nothing keeping you from yard work and sprucing up the curb appeal of your home.

The City of Merced, like many communities, kicks-off the season with Spring Clean-Up days.

This year, two sites received the junk that’s been lying around in garages, along the back fence, or even inside the homes of City residents.

For employees in the City’s Public Works Department, it’s an all-hands-on-deck activity.

You might even call it the Super Bowl of trash removal.

“I’ve never heard our Spring Clean-Up called the Super Bowl before,” says Mike Conway, Assistant to the City Manager. “But that's pretty cool.”

City of Merced workers coordinate the flow of traffic coming into the Clean-Up day drop off site. This is the site at Merced College. The second site is at the Merced County Fairgrounds. Photo: Steve Newvine

City of Merced workers coordinate the flow of traffic coming into the Clean-Up day drop off site. This is the site at Merced College. The second site is at the Merced County Fairgrounds. Photo: Steve Newvine

Pulling off this annual rite of spring takes careful planning and admirable coordination.

According to Refuse Lead Equipment Operator Danny McComb, Clean-Up Days are a top priority.

“Planning begins several months prior to the clean-up dates,” he says. “Refuse Division has sufficient staffing to operate the equipment. Additional staff from Parks, Water, Sewer, and Streets sign up to work the event to complete a total of sixty.”

Behind the scenes, staff coordinates with metal recyclers, the Mattress Recycling Council, tire recyclers, and others to make sure the proper trucks and bins show up at the right sites on the right days.

There are plenty of details.

There’s coordination with the landfill, organizing lunch for the workers, and making sure there’s plenty of water throughout the four days and at both sites (Merced College and Merced County Fairgrounds).

Just about anything not designated for a specific collection area ends up in a garbage truck. Here, workers are “feeding” a discarded couch to one of the city’s trucks. Photo- Steve Newvine

Just about anything not designated for a specific collection area ends up in a garbage truck. Here, workers are “feeding” a discarded couch to one of the city’s trucks. Photo- Steve Newvine

It’s estimated about six-thousand vehicle loads come into a Clean- Up Day site every spring.

That’s a lot of stuff.

Especially when you consider the population of Merced is eighty-thousand.

Approximately seven-hundred, eighty tons of trash is transferred from homes to the dumpsters and trucks at the Clean-Up Day sites.

SPRING CLEAN-UP ESTIMATES

  • 6,000 Vehicle loads
  • 780 Tons of trash
  • 145 Tons of metal
  • 60 Yards of Brush
  • 1,885 Mattresses
  • 5 Trailers of Tires
  • 4 Trailers of e-waste

The most common things seen by the workers at Clean-Up Days include televisions, mattresses, barbecue grills, fence wood, and furniture.

The most unusual thing ever brought in to Clean-Up Day was a ski boat.

But that depends on what your definition of unusual might be.
Workers have seen empty metal urns turned in for recycling.

Even a mannequin was brought in one time.

A steady stream of vehicles loaded with household junk moves along the access road parallel to M Street at Merced College for Spring Clean-Up Days. Photo: Steve Newvine

A steady stream of vehicles loaded with household junk moves along the access road parallel to M Street at Merced College for Spring Clean-Up Days. Photo: Steve Newvine

“Steve,” my wife Vaune reminds me a few days after the first day of spring. “We’ve got to start thinking about Clean-Up Days.”

The Clean-Up Day adventure begins in our household with the annual consolidation of junk in our garage.

My wife and I make up piles. One is for items still usable that might be suitable to donate to charity. One is for items that get a reprieve for at least another year.

A third pile is for items that will be loaded into our SUV for Clean-Up Day.

So call it a ritual of springtime, or maybe a rite of home ownership.
Whatever you wish to call it, Clean-Up Day is a time of renewal, of a fresh slate, and perhaps most importantly an organized garage.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

His new book, Stand By, Camera One is now available in a special hardcover edition as well as the softcover version.

Both can be found at Lulu.com