Cleanup, in contrast to abatement, is for properties where the illegal dumper or property owner either cannot be identified or is unwilling/unable to pay for cleanup, particularly when the cleanup is needed to protect public health and safety and/or the environment. Timely cleanup is important since trash left onsite attracts additional illegal dumping–particularly for hot spots.

Identifying Locations for Cleanup. See It. Report It. Clean It Up!

Hot Lines or Tip Lines

Los Angeles County has a tip line the public can call to report illegal dumping. Sonoma County sponsored an event called the “Tour de Trash”–also known as ABC Rides–where bicyclists located and recorded illegal dumping sites during rides along Sonoma County’s back roads. The first ABC Rides were held on October 29-30, 2005. Using donated GPS locators, bicyclists located and recorded 200 illegal dumping sites during eight rides over the two days. ABC Rides received considerable positive attention from the community and Sonoma County subsequently cleaned up the majority of the dumping sites.


Local governments can facilitate the cleanup of illegal dumping by offering services to property owners, encouraging neighborhood cleanups, and partnering with state government and/or community organizations. Cleanups involve costs and activities that are combined differently in each program:

  • Labor: Either the use of government agency employees, inmates, volunteers and/or community organizations.
  • Equipment: Either the use of government agency employees and equipment or the use of volunteers and/or community organizations.
  • Waste Removal and Disposal: Local government can waive disposal fees or offer vouchers.

Neighborhood Cleanups

Illegal dumping program agencies, elected officials, property owners, and volunteers often will identify specific areas impacted by illegal dumping and organize a neighborhood cleanup day for the area. State matching grant funds up to $500,000 can accelerate the pace of cleanup and ease the economic and staffing burden to the local agencies where the responsible party cannot be identified or is unable or unwilling to perform timely cleanup needed to protect public health, safety and the environment. Local agencies can manage the remediation project, or, in the worst cases, CalRecycle manages cleanup. View a brief document of how CalRecycle’s grants helped the City of Richmond.

Waste tire cleanup projects include the collection, removal, transportation, recycling, and disposal of waste tires from illegal tire piles or public rights of way. Grant funding is available to offset local government costs, but not to clean up sites where an operator is actively stockpiling waste tires. Sites located on agricultural-zoned property are ineligible for this grant program until they have first attempted to obtain a grant though CalRecycle’s Farm and Ranch Grant Program.

Several communities combine various neighborhood illegal dumping cleanups during an Environmental Pride Week (Antelope Valley) or around Earth Day in April (Monterey County) with other collection activities (household hazardous waste collection events, used oil filter recycling, e-waste collection events, etc.) to increase visibility and awareness. The Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful organization hosts volunteer events for cleaning up areas around Reno and Sparks, Nevada. Another large volunteer event to coordinate with is California Coastal Cleanup Day typically held in September and focused on the marine environment. In 2007, more than 60,000 volunteers worked together to collect more than 455 tons of trash and recyclables from California beaches, lakes, and waterways. Keep California Beautiful (KCB) supports hundreds of cleanup, recycling, and beautification events throughout the state of California annually, including the Great American Cleanup. In 2008, KCB volunteer community members contributed over 211,974.5 volunteer hours, removing over 2,156,332 pounds of litter and debris from California’s environment along 3,463 miles of roadways, 256 miles of waterways, 86.5 miles of trails, 27.5 miles of railroad tracks, and 711 acres of parks. The Russian River Watershed Cleanup Committee coordinates an annual cleanup and removal of trash on the Russian River watershed. The 2019 event included more than 430 volunteers who collected approximately 16 tons of refuse.

Caltrans’ Clean California Program

In 2021, the state launched a $1.1 billion 3-year Clean California Program to expand trash removal from state highways and fund local beautification and litter abatement projects, including “dump days” and cleanup events in many jurisdictions—check their website for listings. The initiative includes job creation and a public education campaign to foster a sense of shared responsibility for litter prevention to help protect our waterways, natural resources, public safety and health. The program’s beautification and cleanup include local roads, tribal lands, parks, pathways, transit centers, art projects, underserved communities, and rural and urban areas. A new approach to delegated maintenance agreements and the Adopt-A-Highway program are also tools incorporated in this transformative beautification initiative. District Contacts are available for various opportunities.

Adopt-A-Highway or Adopt-A-Site

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) administers and funds the Adopt-A-Highway Program that involves both volunteers and/or volunteer organizations removing illegally dumped materials along highways. Many counties and cities have developed similar programs for streets and properties within their boundaries and schedule annual cleanup days. The State Water Resources Control Board has a program that assists local jurisdictions in removing illegally dumped materials from waterways and installing prevention measures to reduce additional dumping.

Farm and Ranch Solid Waste Cleanup and Abatement Program

This grant program is administered by CalRecycle to eligible California cities, counties, Resource Conservation Districts, and Native American tribes. Private property owners who want to cleanup their property will need to coordinate with an eligible applicant. A site may be eligible if zoned for agricultural use, where unauthorized solid waste disposal has occurred, and where a cleanup is needed to remove a nuisance or public health and safety threat and/or a threat to the environment. Sites are not eligible if located on a property where the owner or local agency is responsible for the illegal dumping of solid waste.

Solid Waste Cleanup Grants:

CalRecycle offers grants to abate threats to public health and safety and/or the environment by cleaning up illegal dumping sites where there is no responsible party or where the responsible party is unable or unwilling to perform the timely remediation. The grants help public entities accelerate the pace of cleanup, restore sites, and turn today’s problems into tomorrow’s opportunities. There are two different funding mechanisms available–Grants to Public Entities for Illegal Disposal Site Cleanups or matching grants to assist local governments to remediate environmental problems such as illegal dumping, old dumps, and other solid waste problems.

The Mattress Recycling Council’s Illegally Dumped Mattress Collection Initiative

The Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) is a nonprofit organization certified by the state to develop, implement, and administer the mattress recycling program, as defined by the California Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act. As part of California’s law, MRC developed the Illegally Dumped Mattress Collection Initiative to identify where mattresses are illegally dumped in the state and proactively address the issue in affected communities. The MRC offers financial compensation to entities (such as local governments, solid waste facilities, franchise haulers, non-profits contracted with municipalities, Joint Powers Authorities, and tribes) that report data to the MRC regarding illegally dumped units they collect from public rights of way.

Minimizing Recurrence

Timely cleanup is important for minimizing recurrence. For a detailed discussion of the different ways to minimize recurrence please see that section on our Prevention page.

Illegal Dumping Toolbox Home

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