An estimated 10,000 tons of trash is illegally dumped in Baltimore City every year, according to a 2018 report on illegal dumping by the Department of Public Works, and the issue remains persistent throughout the city.
But many city residents may be confused about what constitutes illegal dumping, what happens if you get caught doing it and where you might be able to take your waste instead.
What is illegal dumping?
DPW defines illegal dumping as “the disposal of any waste in an area not designated for such disposal” and includes dumping large bags of trash, building materials and bulky items, DPW’s report said.
Baltimore Heritage director of preservation and outreach Eli Pousson said he sees more of the trash and illegal dumping throughout the city because he mostly bikes and walks in Baltimore.
“[Trash] is something I think a lot about,” Pousson, a Harwood resident said.
Pousson spends his free time volunteering to pick up trash. He said he most commonly sees four different types of garbage in Baltimore’s neighborhoods and alleyways: bulk household trash, like furniture; construction debris, like concrete and paint cans; automotive debris, like tires; and common household and commercial garbage.
City Councilman Ryan Dorsey said he often sees furniture, mattresses and bags of trash on the side of streets.
“You don't have to do a whole lot of observation to see it's a widespread problem in this city,” Dorsey said.
How does the city penalize illegal dumping?
Illegal dumping offenders can range from local residents to construction companies and landscapers, and the act more commonly occurs in secluded areas, according to DPW’s 2018 report on illegal dumping.
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) issued almost 1,150 citations in 2018 for illegal dumping, which can include fines ranging from $50 to $30,000 and possible jail time, depending on the severity of dumping, the report shows.
“The Special Investigations Unit of DHCD will investigate more serious illegal dumping complaints, such as large amounts of bagged trash, dumped bulk items, construction debris, etc. These investigators utilize any evidence available, including eyewitness accounts, security cameras, and any receipts or identifying information found on site,” the report said.
Illegal dumping enforcement is a joint effort between the Bureau of Solid Waste and DHCD, which includes 90 cameras throughout the city to record evidence of illegal dumping.
Where can you get rid of trash legally?
DPW provides weekly curbside collection of trash and recycling for nearly 200,000 homes and business, and in 2016, the agency began distributing sturdy municipal trash cans “for residents to conveniently and securely store their trash,” the report said.
DPW’s Bureau of Solid Waste also distributes throughout the city solar compacting litter cans on street corners for passersby to dispose of trash, like single-use plastics. The cans use solar power to compact trash, increasing the amount of trash it can hold, the report said.
For bulkier trash, DPW offers three free bulk trash collection services per month for residents. The Bureau of Solid Waste also operates eight facilities in the city for residents to legally dump trash, recycling and other bulk items, according to the report.
The trash collection facilities are located throughout the city, on Quarantine Road, Reedbird Avenue, Bowleys Lane, Sisson Street and Reisterstown Road. Recyclables only are collected on York Road, N. Calverton Road and Lewin Ave. More information about hours of operation and specific locations can be found on DPW’s website.
The Small Haulers Program, which began in 2017, allows small, permit-holding commercial waste haulers and residents to dump trash at the Northwest Transfer Station on Reisterstown Road. As of October 2018, almost 26,000 tons of waste had been dumped as part of the program, the report said.
What should you do if you see illegal dumping in your neighborhood?
If you see illegal dumping in action, dial 911. For lots, alleys and other spaces where trash has accumulated over time, dial 311 to put in a service request for illegal dumping.
In 2018, Baltimore City residents filed over 49,000 service requests for illegal dumping on the city’s 311 hotline for non-emergency requests, according to DPW’s report.
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The number of service requests in recent years has been consistent — over 51,000 service requests in 2016 and over 48,000 service requests in 2017.