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Illegal dumping on your property happens for any number of reasons. Maybe the individual in question doesn’t want to pay for trash service, or perhaps they have enough junk that it would cost too much to haul away. Maybe they don’t care and are irresponsible and figured they’d just throw their trash on your property instead. In rare cases, it may even be some form of petty revenge or an escalation of an existing conflict.
Illegal dumping can take many forms, and how you deal with it depends on the type and scale of the problem.
So, let’s go over the possible situations you might encounter.
People Using Your Bins
The first scenario is people simply using your existing city-provided bins. The situation can range anywhere from dog walkers dumping their poo bags in your container as they walk by up to neighbors over-filling your bins and leaving additional garbage all around them.
The scale of the problem should determine the scale of effort you take to solve it. If someone is dropping off a doggy poo bag, that’s not a big deal; it’s better than leaving the bags on the sidewalk or lawn, and it doesn’t make a refuse bin unusable, so it’s not that much of a problem.
On the other hand, if someone else is filling up your bin, it leaves you nowhere to put your household garbage.
Moreover, if the trash can is left open, or if trash is left outside of the bin, the city might levy a fine for a sanitation violation. Chicago has been on a crusade to crack down on overflowing refuse bins and dumpsters since 1994.
So, what can you do?
- The first thing to do is take action before the city notices and registers a violation. If you proactively report the problem, you’ll generally be able to avoid a fine. On the other hand, if a fine has already been issued, you’ll need to go through many more hoops to fight it.
- Next, consider setting up a camera or keeping an eye out to see if you can spot who is doing the dumping. Identifying a culprit can help the city enforcement officers track down the person or people responsible and take appropriate action.
- Until the issue is resolved, you may also want to request additional garbage carts from the city. The trash needs to go somewhere, after all, and while it’s not necessarily your legal responsibility to handle it, leaving it on your property out of spite isn’t going to help anyone.
- While it’s unsanitary and unsavory, you may also consider digging through the trash to look for mail or other identifying information that can serve as evidence of the culprit. Just make sure that, if you do so, you protect yourself with gloves and other appropriate protective gear.
- Some people online may recommend securing your bin using chains or gates, but this isn’t always appropriate. In addition to being a hassle for you to deal with, it becomes a problem for sanitation crews when they come to empty the carts, and it won’t even necessarily stop whoever wants to leave their trash in your bin; they can always leave it on the ground and make it your problem.
- And, of course, you will want to report an incident of a sanitation violation to the city.
You can call 311 or use the city’s online 311 system to report the violation and provide any information you can. You may also want to contact your ward’s sanitation superintendent directly.
People Using Your Dumpster
The first scenario involves using city-owned garbage bins, but this second one is a different category of offense. If you’re a business, a landlord with a multi-tenant residence, or if you’re a contractor or other company working on a construction or demolition project, chances are pretty good that you’ve rented a dumpster.
You may have a regular dumpster used for trash, or you may have rented a specialty dumpster, like a roll-off dumpster, to contain your refuse. The steps you need to take can vary depending on the type of container.
It’s essential to identify who is doing the dumping if you can. If your dumpster is either a temporary or a permanent dumpster meant for typical household garbage, someone illegally using your dumpster can be committing a sanitation violation.
According to the Chicago Tribune, using someone else’s dumpster without permission can result in a fine of up to $500 for the offender. Meanwhile, illegal dumping can result in penalties of up to triple that, or if the offense is a repeat, it can result in a felony and more.
Unlike city waste bins, dumpsters are typically contracted from third-party companies. That means you’ll need to involve them in the process and see if they have any potential options for helping to deal with the problem. There may be secured bins you can arrange or another solution they offer.
Since you’re responsible for recycling as much of the waste generated as possible, someone throwing away their garbage can cause problems. The worst problem to handle is when you’re using a junk removal service to remove construction or demolition debris that you can essentially recycle. Still, people keep using containers to throw away household garbage.
As with the other situation above, you’ll want to consider setting up surveillance, checking the trash for identifying information, or even hiring security if the stakes are high enough. And, of course, you’ll want to contact the city by dialing into their 311 services or contacting a Ward Sanitation Super directly to report the violation and discuss options for handling it.
People Dumping on Your Property
Fly dumping, as it is called, is a huge problem in the Chicagoland area. It happens on personal, business, city, and state land. If you own property with green space, out-of-the-way areas, or even just a yard where dumping can take place, it’s always possible that someone has decided to use your property in lieu of a landfill.
Who might be doing this illegal dumping? We’ve seen it all. Sometimes it’s a resident without their own garbage service or with too much garbage they need to get rid of, and they don’t want to pay for it to be removed. So, they haul it to some out-of-the-way location and dump it.
Other times, it’s unscrupulous contractors or junk removers who don’t want to deal with city paperwork and just dump their hauls in some location they don’t care about.
We’ve even seen cases of waste removal services who decide they can make more of a profit by dumping their garbage in the local streams, under overpasses, or behind businesses, out of sight, out of mind, right?
No matter who is doing the dumping (or where), fly dumping is illegal in Chicago. You can read more about the topic here.
Fly dumping is illegal for many reasons. It poses a health hazard, as standing water, piles of junk, and garbage can provide shelter and food for rodents, pests, and mosquitoes that carry diseases. Sharp and other dangerous items can pose a hazard to people working or children playing in the area. On top of all of it, hazardous chemicals and heavy metals can leach out of the trash piles and into the groundwater, contaminating resources for entire neighborhoods.
Unlike the above two options, Chicago’s administration recommends leaving these piles alone. Don’t go digging through them. Leave that to the professionals and law enforcement.
You can still consider surveillance, though if you don’t own the property and are just witnessing dumping elsewhere, you might not be able to set something up. However, if you can see and identify an individual or get their license plate number, you can add that information to your report.
As with the other examples, your first choice of action should be to report the dumping to 311 and the city waste management officers. The exception is if you’re witnessing it in progress, in which case you should call 911 for a more immediate response time and a chance to catch the perpetrator in the act.
Fly dumping carries with it steep penalties, with fines starting at $1,500 and community service or even jail time. Commercial offenders or repeat offenders can even have their vehicles impounded.
Are You Responsible for Cleaning up Dumped Garbage?
Whether or not you’re responsible for cleaning up someone else’s garbage depends on a few factors. In general, however, the answer is usually no.
If someone else is using your bin, you may want to take action just to keep your property clean, but it’s technically not your responsibility. When you report a sanitation violation, it usually becomes the city’s responsibility to clean up, and they will likely do so as part of their investigation into the issue. After all, they don’t want to punish you for reporting it; they want to track down the person responsible and punish them for it.
If someone is using your private dumpster, and the dumpster is assigned for typical household garbage, the biggest issue is less the use of the dumpster and more if it ends up over-used or too full for its normal function. One key may be to make sure it’s actually an outsider doing it. In some cases, like in an apartment complex, it may simply be residents causing the problem. In this case, you are still responsible and will need to take action.
What actions might you take in this case? First, you’ll want to inform your tenants of the problem with stacking trash too high. If anyone is fined, it ends up being you, but you may be able to add surcharges or charge particular residents for committing those violations. We’re not lawyers, though, nor are we property managers, so you’ll want to consult with a lawyer, so you don’t do anything illegal.
On the other hand, if it’s an outsider using the dumpster on your property, you may be able to monitor and identify the culprit and report them to the city for appropriate action.
And, of course, if it’s your tenants, you may need to increase your contract with a private waste management company to get either a larger dumpster or a second dumpster, depending on the scale and consistency of the issue.
Fly dumping, as well, is a significant problem. As mentioned above, and in our post about fly dumping, we say the same thing: it’s not your responsibility to clean up. You need to report it to the city when you see it, but it’s up to them to clean up the dumped trash safely, as well as to analyze it and make sure it’s not hazardous or remediate any hazards that are present.
What to Do If You Have Too Much Junk
What happens if you have a lot of junk to get rid of and your usual waste bins can’t handle it? Sure, you could spread out your additional trash over multiple weeks. Still, if the scope of your problem is large enough (such as a large remodel project or cleaning out a hoarding situation), you’ll need a more immediate solution.
That’s where we come in. While you’re not responsible for cleaning up junk dumped by other people, you need to handle your waste appropriately. Luckily, we’re more than happy to do that for you.
All you need to do is drop us a line through one of our many contact options. We’ll ask you a few questions about what you need to be hauled away (to determine the rough amount, whether or not it’s exceptionally heavy or hazardous, and so on) and can give you both a timeframe for removal and a quote. There are no hidden fees, no surprises, and there are very few projects that we shy away from.
Trust us, we’ve seen it all, and we’ll haul it all out to be recycled or processed appropriately, no matter what it is. Get in touch with us today for a free estimate, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about your situation.