Illegal Dumping: What It Is & How It Affects Us All

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More than a million tons per year of plastic trash land in places where it shouldn’t, according to a study of U.S. plastic trash published in Science Advances journal. The equivalent of 1,300 plastic grocery bags per person are ending up in environments they shouldn’t be in, like waterways and roads, and illegal dumping is playing a large role.

Illegal dumping is not only bad for the environment, but it can also lead to harsh penalties and fines. Learn more about the effects of illegal dumping.

What Is It?

Illegal dumping is the unlawful act of getting rid of trash by putting it on private or public property where it’s not permitted. Texas Disposal Systems defines it as dumping waste anywhere but a location designated for trash disposal. Doing so is not only a crime but an environmental hazard and threat to public health.

Common areas for the illegal disposal of trash are forests, open fields, drainage ditches, waterways, culverts, vacant lots, alleyways, and dumpsters. The crime differs from litter in the type and amount of discarded material. Littering is usually a small quantity of waste improperly thrown out. Some cities, counties, and states will still fine you for littering, but illegal dumping comes with heftier punishments. Popular items to dump illegally are household garbage, hazardous waste, appliances, mattresses, furniture, and electronics.

Behind The Increase

There are numerous factors attributing to the rise in incorrectly disposed waste:

  1. The world’s population is increasing every day. More people means we produce more waste, and that can lead to people disposing of it in the wrong places.
  2. There is increased wealth and a heightened emphasis on a consumer-oriented society.  People are buying more and more, and much of the waste illegally dumped are not true consumables.
  3. You must pay fees for trash disposal or throw trash away at the landfill. To avoid those costs, people tend to leave their waste in places they shouldn’t.

Effects of Illegal Dumping

A conservation blog, Conserve Energy Future, notes that land, water, soil, and air pollution is primarily caused by people improperly dumping their waste. A decision to leave waste in the environment or vacant urban areas can lead to many environmental hazards or affect others’ lives. For example, toxic substances and chemicals can leak from non-biodegradable materials into the soil, contaminating the ground and nearby waterways. In addition, plastic products easily end up in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, poisoning or entangling animals. Contaminated medical waste that is not correctly disposed of can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Used tires dumped in the environment can easily collect water, leaves, and other debris. This is an ideal place for disease-carrying mosquitoes to lay their eggs and larvae.

Trash in the environment also creates fuel for wildfires. Combined discarded chemicals can create combustible gases. In turn, these gases can cause piles of garbage to catch on fire, and that could lead to uncontained wildfires. These fires then release toxic particles that can be inhaled and can infiltrate our ground and drinking water.

Lastly, dumping diminishes property value. Illegal dumpsites can serve as a magnet for criminal activities. The dirt and smell can make nature areas unsightly, affecting tourism and deterring economic development and investment. The cleanup process costs taxpayers, as it often falls on the shoulders of local and state governments. They pay millions of dollars annually to clean up illegally dumped trash.

Penalties For Dumping Waste Illegally

You can face some hefty fines if you throw out trash where it doesn’t belong. The act can be followed with either a misdemeanor or felony charge. The type depends on the state, the amount of waste, the kind of waste, and whether the crime is committed by an individual or a business, and if those entities have prior offenses.

According to, misdemeanors may involve up to one year in a county jail or state prison. Felonies can result in more than a year behind bars. Fines for illegal dumping can be as little as a traffic ticket cost or thousands of dollars. Other consequences include probation, community service, restitution, and remediation. Restitution is when the judge requires the person to pay for any damage caused to the property from waste disposal. Remediation is when the person is required to clean up and repair the property they damaged from illegally throwing out their waste.

What Can We Do To Stop the issue?

Awareness is key to cutting down on the amount of trash that’s illegally disposed of. You can report illegal dumping on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website or to your local police department. Organize a volunteer cleanup if an area near you is turning into a dumping ground. When the site is cleaner, people are less tempted to throw trash on the property.

Practice and spread the message of recycling. Improperly disposed waste can stem from the overabundance of junk, so recycling can help cut down on the issue.

Also, if you feel like people are using your property to throw out their waste, put up signs that say, “No Trespassing” or “No Dumping.” You can also lock dumpsters overnight and use surveillance cameras.

If you have an excess amount of waste you need to get rid of, contact your local trash service to inquire about bulk trash pickup. If they can’t pick up your material, you can take it directly to your local landfill or hazardous waste processing facility. Both of the latter options charge a fee. The bulk pickup might also be an extra charge on your monthly trash service bill.

Book a Dumpster Rental To Help

Avoid the hassle of finding where to dump your waste after a home project. Instead, check out redbox+ Dumpsters for your waste removal needs. We are familiar with local waste management laws and adhere to proper waste disposal practices. Our dumpster rentals come in various sizes, and we’ll help you choose the right size for your project. In addition, we manage the disposal for you, so there are fewer trips to the landfill.

Contact us online or call 1-844-2-REDBOX to receive a quote today.