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Chicago Fly Dumping Guide

Illegal dumping is a problem in many parts of the world, but Chicago often feels like a particular case. The city spends over 1.5 million dollars annually disposing of illegally-dumped materials throughout the area. Those costs come from city budgets that they would otherwise spend elsewhere to improve the city and keep it safe.

It hurts all of us, and there are better ways to handle disposing of junk and debris.

What is Fly Dumping?

Fly dumping is illegal and is punishable by law in the Chicago area. It causes problems for everyone. No one wants junk left on their property or left at a property near their own. So what is the definition of fly dumping?

“Fly” dumping is the act of dumping garbage, junk, debris, waste, or other hazardous materials in a way that isn’t a legally-sanctioned disposal method. The name comes from the idea of dumping “on the fly” rather than using approved processes to dispose of whatever junk you have.

What is Fly Dumping

In a city like Chicago, we have sanctioned ways to dispose of pretty much anything. Trash goes in the bin, recycling in the blue bins to be handled appropriately, and you can drop off hazardous materials at appropriate disposal facilities. If you have too much junk to dispose of through normal means – such as clearing out a foreclosure, removing construction debris, or clearing out a storage shed from old chemicals and paint – you can call a junk removal service like JUNK Relief.

What’s the Problem with Fly Dumping?

Fly dumping is illegal, but if that’s not reason enough for you, these junk piles can cause many problems.

Problems With Fly Dumping

For example:

  • They can create standing water, which fosters pests like mosquitos that can carry West Nile Virus and other dangerous diseases.
  • They create shelter for pests like rats, which can carry diseases and cause problems for surrounding homes and businesses.
  • They can be hazardous to children playing in the area, whether it’s rusty nails, sharp edges, or the risk of injury playing with junk.
  • Hazardous waste that is disposed of illegally can cause other health issues. Imagine your child playing in your neighborhood, and getting a cut from sharp construction debris in a junk pile.
  • Hazardous waste can leach into the soil and, through it, into the groundwater, becoming a hazard for the entire neighborhood.

These examples are just some of the hazards that can come up with illegal dumping. You never know what is in those piles, whether it’s pests, chemicals, toxic materials, biohazards, or waste that can cause injuries.

Fly dumping also involves other crimes, like trespassing. Not all fly dumping is done on public land, after all. No one wants to wake up and find somebody that dumped junk in their yard! Also, many places in the city have cameras specifically to prevent fly dumping and to protect their dumpsters.

What Should You Do About Illegal Dumping?

Illegal dumping causes problems, but the city can handle those problems. The specific steps you take depend on the situation.

1. If you notice piles of illegally-dumped materials.

If you wake up one morning to a pile of junk in your yard, or on a property you don’t frequently visit, or a vacant lot nearby, or otherwise that shouldn’t be there and isn’t disposed of properly, the City of Chicago has a designated way to handle it.

Do you see tires, construction debris, rubble, paint cans, or anything dangerous? If you spot a pile of trash in Chicago, call 311, the official number for the City of Chicago’s non-emergency services. You’ll need to navigate a phone extension system and be asked to provide details about what you’ve found and where you’ve found it. You don’t need to dig in the junk to tell them what’s in it – you should stay away from hazardous piles of garbage just in case – but an estimate can help. The more details that you can provide, the better.

Once you’ve reported the junk, the city will investigate and have it cleared away. This process can take a bit of time, depending on how busy the city is, how much junk is present, and what type of junk it is. While the city does have sanitation codes, and the junk pile on your property may violate them, it’s still better to let the city handle it. There are some cases of the city trying to charge or fine you for the trash, but if it’s not yours and somebody illegally dumped it, it’s still a good idea to report it.

Illegally dumped material is generally not your responsibility to clear out unless you are informed otherwise.

Working with the city on this is a bit of a process, but it’s always a good idea to report it to the proper authorities as places can become a “fly dumping” problem area and handling it quickly with the city gives you the best chance at preventing the problem for you and your neighbors.

2. If you witness illegal dumping and want to report it.

If you witness illegal dumping but aren’t in a position to call it in, do your best to remember or record details of the incident. Any description you can give about the person doing the dumping and the vehicle they drive is helpful for the authorities in tracking down the person responsible. You will, of course, also need to know where the dumping occurs.

Call 311

In this case, again, call 311.

Calling 311 will allow you to report the fly dumping incident, and you can provide additional details to the city to help them track down the dumper. You may be asked to talk to the police or file a police report with the details you have, and if you have any photos of the incident, handing them over can be highly beneficial to the investigation.

3. If you’re witnessing illegal dumping in progress.

If you wake up in the night (or are out walking in the day) and catch someone illegally dumping junk, call 911 ASAP. 911 is, obviously, the number for emergency services.

When witnessing illegal dumping, you are catching a crime in progress. Calling immediately, giving dispatch your location and a description of the people involved can help the city find the people dumping their junk throughout the city.

That’s all you need to do! The city says explicitly:

Please don’t touch anything. You’ve done your part just by calling. The materials or emissions you’re reporting could be toxic or harmful. Let our professional inspectors handle the matter.”

It’s not your job to investigate or clean up the dumped materials on somebody else’s property. Please leave it to the city to ensure it’s not hazardous, explore for any details they may uncover about who is doing the dumping, and clear it away themselves.

4. If you witness illegal dumping or see illegal junk piles that look like hazardous materials.

The final scenario is when you come across illegally-dumped junk or witness an incident in progress where the waste being dumped appears to be hazardous materials. Hazardous materials include anything toxic or harmful, including chemicals, barrels of unidentified contents, motor oil, biohazards, and even construction debris that can be dangerous, like old nail-filled debris or sharp objects.

In this case, the city also asks that you call 911.

Since the materials are potentially hazardous beyond the level of household junk, they want to investigate and clean it up as soon as possible. In particular, if dangerous chemicals or biohazards are involved, there may need to be specialized cleanup efforts to ensure the safety of the cleaners and the neighborhood.

5. What about online reporting?

If you don’t want to call and wait for the city to come by or find it more convenient to file a report online, you can use the City of Chicago’s 311 system, found here. You will be allowed to create an account, but you can file a report without doing so.

The report will ask you for the address of the junk to the best of your ability to provide. Some locations don’t have an accessible street address, so find the nearest location. You will then be asked what was dumped, as much as you can describe, and any details you can provide about who abandoned it.

When you file a report, you will be given an SR number. If you want to track your report, you need to be logged in or remember the SR number.

What Are the Penalties for Fly Dumping?

Fly dumping is illegal by city law, and penalties are associated with it. The city of Chicago is aggressively prosecuting fly dumpers. It works with the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Police Department, and the Department of Streets and Sanitation to investigate dumping, track down the people doing the dumping, and clean up the junk.

Penalties for Fly Dumping

As they currently stand, the penalties include:

  • Fines of a minimum of $1,500 for first-time offenders (and more for repeat offenders or egregious dumping).
  • Up to six months of jail time.
  • Up to 200 hours of community service.

Penalties can also increase in cases where an individual has been caught more than once. Additionally, vehicles used for illegal dumping can be impounded by the city.

If this sounds like a harsh set of penalties, remember that illegal dumping affects all of us. It’s hazardous to the surrounding area and the community as a whole, and it can cause contamination of toxic materials in the soil and groundwater.

Is the City Doing Anything About Fly Dumping?

Fly dumping is taken pretty seriously by the city of Chicago. In addition to community reporting, they have installed mobile cameras in areas where trash abandonment is widespread. While these cameras are expensive – up to $6,500 each, as of 2017 – the ability to save the city money on cleanup and enforcement is more than enough to make up for it.

Fly Dumping Cameras

Of course, city authorities can’t be everywhere all the time. Enforcement is inherently reactive; without dumping reports, they don’t know where to put cameras. Without reports or footage, they don’t know who to go after. If you have information, it’s best to contact the city to help curb this persistent problem before it does more damage to the community and the city.

What If You Have Junk to Remove?

We get it; getting rid of junk is tedious, annoying, occasionally expensive, and time-consuming. You need to classify it and dispose of it properly, and half the time, you never know what facility will reject what trash for what reason. Recycling enforcement varies; the list of hazardous materials is a mile long and constantly changes, and you have to figure out how to get it there. Not everyone owns a truck!

If you have junk that you need to be removed, and it’s too much to put in the trash, you need a good, reputable, trustworthy junk removal service. That’s where we come in.

Junk Needed for Removal

At JUNK Relief, we’re Chicago’s most trusted and reliable junk removal service. We’ve been a go-to name for over ten years. Why?

  • We discuss everything up-front, from timing to a quote, and stick to it. No hidden fees or labor charges will surprise you when you get an invoice; it’s up-front and transparent.
  • We’re fast. Often, we’re ready to help remove your junk as soon as the next day and can schedule removal whenever suits your needs.
  • We’re polite and professional. Whether you have construction debris, used furniture, or a hoarding situation, we’ll help clear it out. We even handle hoards with sensitivity and respect, as they deserve.
  • We take pretty much anything. While some kinds of junk, like bricks and stones, may have special considerations like the weight limits of our trucks, we’ll still haul it away.
  • We do everything we can to recycle and reuse what we process. Our partners can help recycle anything that we can recycle. Anything that can be cleaned up and reused, will be recycled through the community or donated to local organizations like Habitat for Humanity or other donation centers. We will also recycle anything we can recycle instead of funneled to a landfill. Hazardous chemicals and other waste, including e-waste, are also handled properly. Only the bare minimum of unrecoverable trash is forwarded to landfills.

Here’s how it all works.

So, if you have junk that needs to be removed, no matter how much or how little it is, no matter what it is, contact us for an estimate today.


Joe Weidman

Joe is a Chicago native, born and raised in Elmhurst. He founded Junk Relief more than 10 years ago and has worked with more than 20,000 homeowners and businesses throughout Chicagoland. His passion for starting a business in junk removal stemmed from seeing the need to do things differently. He prides himself on his company's model to provide unexpectedly professional service.


If you’ve got junk in Chicago or the Chicagoland Suburbs, we can help. CALL US or TEXT US at (312) 800-1940.


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