Discarded mattresses are a big headache for residents

A state regulation last November ended the practice of residents leaving mattresses on the curb to be taken away as trash. This mattress and box-spring set that was abandoned last week in Fields Corner is an example of what has since November been a consistent problem in many parts of Dorchester: People dumping mattresses for someone else to deal with. Seth Daniel photo

If anyone needs a soft spot to sit on during the Dorchester Day Parade, or for any of the other upcoming community events, look no farther than the sidewalks. There’s no shortage of mattresses littering the main thoroughfares and side streets of our West of Washington hamlets that would offer a soft landing for any parade-watcher.

This latest inundation of worn-out bedding comes courtesy of a short-sighted, statewide effort last fall to get mattresses out of the trash stream.

I guess kudos is due to those who had the big idea to clean up the waste stream, but as is so often the case, these statewide efforts are made for, and by, people in the suburbs with little thought given to how things work in the city.

The same silly story played out many years ago with computer monitors and old televisions – “Dump ‘em in Dorchester, no one cares” was what I pictured people saying back then.

The new mattress regulations went into effect last November, and if there was a betting line on the outcome at the Encore casino, I could have collected and doubled down because there was no doubt in my mind that eventually the sidewalks, vacant lots, and even the parks, would be teeming with dumped mattresses carcasses that after decades of being accepted as trash on the curb, suddenly were not.

In just the last few weeks, I’ve seen them all over our community, along Blue Hill Avenue, in Fields Corner – and even on Dorchester Avenue. Many front yards and side yards are also littered with them; though on private property, that’s hardly ideal.

The City of Boston has tried to get ahead of the problem by allowing residents to make appointments to get mattresses picked up for free. This is a noble effort, but the results are missing the mark. Anyone who dumps or leaves a mattress in their yard likely isn’t the kind of person to make an appointment for a pickup. Too many people are content to push it across the street or simply let it languish where they tossed it.

I don’t believe that this problem is all on the residents. I think a lot of these mattresses are coming from the suburbs and being dumped in our neighborhoods due to the usual suburban attitudes about Dorchester – particularly on the western side. Some might be from suburban residents themselves looking to avoid fees and figuring “Boston will take care of it,” but others could be dropped off by debris removal companies looking to save a buck in tipping fees at the yard.

It’s Dorchester – no one cares, right? Wrong!

This is an attitude that reaches far beyond mattresses. In just in the last six months, when I’ve left the house early in the morning, just on my block, I’ve found car batteries, old tires, a circa 1930s Frigidaire “icebox” (with the door still on), and a pile of ancient, broken yard tools left there in the overnight hours.

But the mattress dumping problem far surpasses those curiosities, and too often it’s left to residents to take care of it. The adage for the city is “If you touch it, it’s your problem.” So, most people just leave the mattresses and hope it just goes away. Otherwise, they have to make an appointment to dispose of someone else’s trash.

These are the sorts of things that too often that aren’t considered in big statewide environmental regulations that might work just fine in Wrentham or Sudbury but leave those of us in the city picking up the pieces, or in this case – the mattresses.

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