Why we all must move out safely during COVID-19

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Moving out of the place you call home can be stressful in any circumstance. But with the abrupt transition to online classes, many students have been forced to leave Berkeley and have left their belongings behind. During this pandemic, students must take extra precautions to keep residents in Berkeley safe as many return to move out of apartments and start new leases.

As a student leader — who will be moving out myself this May — I recognize the safety and sustainability of our community as a top priority during this time. I hope to promote a safe, smart and sustainable move-out by providing easily accessible information to students. We as a community absolutely cannot allow unsafe decision-making in this moment to compromise the efforts of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders.

The following are important guidelines, compiled in partnership with campus and city staff, to follow as you move out this May or June. Visit the Cal Move Out website, built for students by students, if you have additional questions or need additional resources. If you choose to return to Berkeley, please review the latest information on the city of Berkeley’s and UC Berkeley’s responses to the coronavirus — at this time, everyone in Berkeley is required to wear masks when outside.

Be sure to make a plan with your housemates before you return so everyone can stay safe. Some group living accomodations (e.g. sororities, co-ops, etc.) are planning their move-outs in shifts to maintain effective social distancing. Reach out to your landlord or rental service about staggered move-out appointments. Consider scheduling time slots for each of your roommates or housemates to move their things out separately. Make a plan for what you will do with your furniture and unwanted items before you come back or before your lease deadline approaches — whether that be putting them in storage, selling them, taking them with you or disposing them.

Any materials you no longer want cannot be left on the curb. During this global pandemic, abandoning materials on the streets of Berkeley puts everyone, especially vulnerable populations, at an increased risk. This includes homeless individuals, sanitation workers, essential workers, older neighbors and those with underlying conditions. According to Berkeley Municipal Code Chapter 12.40, it is illegal to dump unwanted materials curbside, and violators can be imprisoned or fined up to $1,000 per day. Please call the 311 Customer Service Center if you see any illegal dumping.

The city is, however, temporarily allowing residents to put out a few extra bags of trash per residence at no charge. Additional bags are available for sale at the Transfer Station.

Be sure to properly sort any materials you dispose of into the correct waste bins. Take a look at the Ecology Center’s sorting guide if you aren’t sure where specific items should go. If you have access to a vehicle, you can take materials directly to the Berkeley Recycling Center, including paper, cardboard, metal cans and foil, glass bottles and jars, certain types of plastic, cooking oil, fluorescent bulbs, tapes, CDs, books and batteries.

You can also drop off two mattresses, futons or box springs and two electronic devices at the Transfer Station for free! The Transfer Station will also accept refrigerated appliances and additional landfill waste for a fee. Additional electronic waste can be dropped off at the Computer and Technology Resource Center. If you expect your household to generate a large amount of waste, you can rent roll-off containers and compactors.

To keep curbside recycling as safe as possible, please follow these recommendations from the Ecology Center. The instructions include continuing to sort your recyclables (no styrofoam, plastic bags, pouches or flexible film). In addition, park your vehicles close to the curb and observe proper hygiene when handling carts. Maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet when truck drivers approach. Flatten your cardboard and do not wedge it into carts; once per week, you can leave one tape or twine-secured bundle up to 3 feet by 3 feet by 1 foot next to your cart or collection.

Many places that regularly accept donations are no longer collecting. Ask your landlord or incoming residents if they are interested in purchasing your furniture. If you are interested in donating materials, see our list of organizations we know to be accepting donations. The RecycleWhere website may list additional organizations accepting goods for recycling or reuse.

Any uneaten, nonperishable food donations can be directed to the UC Berkeley Food Pantry. To make small, nonexpired donations, email [email protected].

If you would prefer to store things in Berkeley, you can rent a storage unit for a monthly fee. Any items you don’t want to donate, sell or dispose of — but can’t take with you — can be stored. Prices fluctuate based on the amount of space needed, starting at $40. Here is a list of nearby storage units and their costs.

Be communicative with your landlord about your plan to move out and any additional needs you may have. UC Berkeley’s Leases and Rental Agreements tip sheet and the city of Berkeley’s Rent Stabilization Board page may be helpful as you navigate these conversations.

As a student, I recognize how difficult this time has been, and I want to be sure moving out is as safe and clean as possible for everyone. While public health is a top priority, it is still important that we prevent literal tons of material from being dumped on the streets or ending up in landfills.

As environmentally conscious members of the Berkeley community, we all have the potential to divert most of this material by making informed decisions when we move, greatly impacting our community and our planet. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or additional tips for students moving this spring! Please help protect the city that we love by being safe and smart as you pack up your belongings.

I would like to thank members of the 2020 Student Move Out Coalition for taking the lead on move-out efforts this year. The 2020 Student Coalition includes representatives from the Zero Waste Coalition, the office of ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar, the Panhellenic Council, the Berkeley Student Cooperative and the Interfraternity Council. A big thanks to Anna Whitney, Laurel Halvorson, Ella Griffith, Jen Loy, Samantha Lubow and Berkeley City Councilmember Rigel Robinson’s office for their partnership and contribution in compiling resources and verifying information to ensure Berkeley’s community can stay as safe as possible while moving out this spring.

Julia Sherman is a UC Berkeley Zero Waste Coalition leader who has written this article as a part of the 2020 Student Move Out Coalition.