Skip to Content

East Bay engineer dedicates himself to cleaning up the Bay Area

<i>KPIX via CNN Newsource</i><br/>During a time when there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of Oakland
KPIX via CNN Newsource
During a time when there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of Oakland

By Max Darrow

Click here for updates on this story

    OAKLAND (KPIX) — During a time when there is a lot of uncertainty about the future of Oakland, one local engineer has been trying to spread some civic pride in his hometown and across the rest of the Bay Area.

Among all of the trash that littered the corner of 17th St. and Brush St. in Oakland, is a Bay Area treasure. His name is Andy Wang.

Andy makes his living as an engineer in Livermore, but he lives to beautify Bay Area communities by cleaning up hot spots for illegal dumping.

“It just doesn’t have to be this way,” he said. “I just want to help out the community. Nobody deserves to live in an environment where there is trash and other disgusting things laying around.”

He typically does this 3-4 times a week, and has found himself in communities all throughout the Bay Area.

“San Francisco, San Jose, Hayward, Vallejo, Concord and Oakley, Milpitas – I’ve even found illegal dumping take place in Pleasanton,” he said. “It’s a whack-a-mole kind of a problem.”

He bags it up so that workers at public works departments can pick it up safely and efficiently, notifies them, and moves on.

“If I can help make the process a little bit easier for them so that we can tackle the solution together, we’re going to see results,” he said. “I do my best to help streamline it – they’re inundated, they’re drowning in requests, I just hope I can help make their lives a little bit easier.”

Andy’s big goal is to find solutions for this problem. And finding solutions, he says, will be a team effort.

“It isn’t my job. People keep telling me that. I understand. But, what’s wrong with having a little civic pride and helping out the community? People deserve a clean street,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”

He often takes before and after photos and shares them online because he wants to show people this is a problem that can be fixed with a collective effort.

“I want to inspire people and show people that this is an issue that is solvable, within our control,” he said.

And that he has.

“I’ve got the motivation from Andy. Why not come out here and try to help my community?” said John Kirkham.

Kirkham started “East Bay Trash Pandas,” a group of volunteers who regularly clean up Grizzly Peak in Berkeley, all thanks to inspiration from Andy.

“Just seeing him doing this month after month after month – setting that example – is really what got me out here doing this,” Kirkham said. “We’ve been working up here for about 6 months, we’ve pulled about 18 tons of litter and illegal dumping off the mountain.”

He, too, is on a mission for solutions, to a trash and illegal dumping problem that plagues the mountain.

“I think trash like this sends a message that we don’t care about our common areas,” he said. “We want to get UC Berkeley or Oakland to put in secure, high-capacity trash cans at each of the pull outs that they empty every week; to do weekly litter clean ups – like we’ve been doing as volunteers – and to close a few of the problem spots for illegal dump sites.”

Andy smiles when he hears about people like Kirkham.

“I hope to continue to inspire more people,” he said.

It’s not hard to see the contribution he makes to society. But he wants to take it a step further – by working with city leaders to find solutions for illegal dumping.

“I’m trying to collect several years of data, and then want to use the data to try and figure out what are solutions, do we see patterns, what is the actual cost, and how do we solve it,” he said. “I’m really eager to work with cities, share my ideas on ways to prevent illegal dumping. You know, I’ve come up with some innovative ideas.”

He thinks changing signage would be beneficial.

“Instead of those road signs that say no dumping, $1,000 fine, why not replace the signs with no dumping, take advantage of free bulky pickups,” he said. “This is a problem that is not impossible to solve. This is something that people in the city can work together to come to a long-term solution.”

If municipalities can find ways to better prevent illegal dumping, he says the money spent on cleaning it up could be used for other things communities need.

“Illegal dumping has great economic and environmental cost,” he said. “The millions of dollars of money spent on illegal dumping could be spent to create new playgrounds, it could be used to help the unhoused.”

21 bags and a lot of debris later, Andy has transformed yet another Bay Area street. You ask him why, he’ll say, “Why not?”

“I’m just an average guy just trying to help out as much as he can. I care, and I want each and every city in the Bay Area to thrive,” he said.

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content