Caltrans is back picking up trash, and the homeless are helping in San Jose: Roadshow

Q: I don’t know if you had anything to do with the cleanup of the terrible amount of trash along Interstate 580 and I-880 near the Oakland airport. But it’s mostly gone.

George Williams, Dublin

A: Including, I hope, that full-sized couch and loveseat along 880 in the Fruitvale area.

Q: I drove over the hill on Highway 17 to San Jose for the first time since the virus hit and there was no litter!

Karen Poret, Santa Cruz

A: Credit goes to Caltrans. They suspended litter pickups due to COVID-19, with a promise crews would soon be back. I like it when promises are kept.

And here comes better news. San Jose has launched what it calls “Cash for Trash,” a pilot program to battle blight by having homeless folks pick up trash at encampments in exchange for reloadable cards from Mastercard.

This will take place at 40 locations throughout San Jose. Crews will distribute trash bags redeemable at $4 per bag. Funds can be used to pay for essential items, with restrictions on items like alcohol and tobacco.

During the first week of the program at two sites, 27 homeless people collected over two tons of trash. The city has earmarked $50,000 for trash pickup and Valley Water will provide $60,000 a year in grants through 2023.

Kudos for a creative approach to easing a problem we’ve been despairing about for far too many years.

Q: I’d like to ask whoever is responsible for trash pickup on Vasco Road between Livermore and Brentwood to please have a pickup day, and I’ll volunteer to help. This roadway is lined with so much trash. I suspect the main culprits are commuters, so I suggest pickups happen during peak commute times in each direction for maximum inconvenience for those traveling on that roadway.

Surely some innocent folks will be inconvenienced, but isn’t that how life works: a few bad apples ruin it for everyone else?

Thomas Gray, Livermore

A: Anything else?

Q: I also would suggest a sign on the trucks that are cleaning up: We’re out here picking up the trash you couldn’t be bothered to handle properly.

Thanks for reading my rant.

Thomas Gray

A: This is Contra Costa County’s turf and it says Vasco Road can be a dump due to the windy conditions that blow debris a long way, plus the high volume of traffic and speeds along roads such as Vasco and Camino Diablo. Contra Costa County does not encourage the public to pick up trash and debris near traffic.

If you are interested in volunteering along safer roads, contact the county at

Join Gary Richards for an hourlong chat noon Wednesday at Look for Gary Richards at or contact him at or 408-920-5335.

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Author: Gary Richards