Environmental pollution from illegal waste disposal

Even if you aren’t the one committing the crime, you’re still the one paying for it — in more ways than one. There are the obvious ways that you are affected, from neighborhood blight to the negative stigma that comes with it. On top of that, waste pollutes the local environment and places a financial burden on you if the city needs to step in for the cleanup.

Effects of Illegal Dumping on the Environment

When trash is introduced into the environment, there are a variety of potential risks for the land and animals nearby. The scope of the impact, though, is not always obvious and could take some time to present itself.
  1. Soil and Water Becomes Contaminated

    When a mass amount of waste is in one place, there is a risk to the soil and water nearby. Unlike regulated sanitary landfills which work to protect the surrounding area from contaminants, illegal dump sites do not have built-in systems and constant monitoring for environmental safety.

    In an unmonitored, unregulated situation, runoff from hazardous waste can work its way into streams, rivers, lakes and even into drinking water.

    Additionally, chemicals can seep into soil and cause the ground to be infertile or even encourage the spread of invasive vegetation that are immune to the effect of the chemicals. It is also possible for the chemicals to enter vegetation that could make its way into food supplies.
  2. Wildlife Is Disrupted

    Animals are not immune to the impact of illegal waste dumping. In fact, they tend to feel the impact first. The best-case scenario is that they are mildly inconvenienced by a pile of trash that blocked their normal travel path. Unfortunately, that is not where the problems tend to stop.

    Smaller creatures may get ill after eating the trash or potentially become tangled in the debris, making them easy targets for predators. Should runoff or the trash itself make it to a water source, fish may experience depleted oxygen supply or ingest the waste particles. Trash also tends to attract wildlife that may not be native to that particular area. From mosquitoes to raccoons, this can lead to new diseases and predators entering the area, disrupting the natural flow of the ecosystem.
  3. Risk of Natural Disasters Increases

    Garbage tends to be flammable. That is because the various pieces of trash can mix, which may release combustible gasses. If an illegal dump site is left unchecked, it increases the odds of a spontaneous fire that can grow and eventually become a full-fledged forest fire.

    Additionally, dumped trash can cause floods either by blocking the natural pathways of water or speeding up the process of erosion.

Effects of Illegal Dumping in Your Community

The environment isn’t the only victim of illegal dumping. If an unauthorized dump site appears in your neighborhood, you and your community can be impacted more than you might expect.
  1. Possibility of Health Issues Increase

    One of the biggest risks illegal dumping poses to humans is illness. Sites where trash is just sitting out are a breeding ground for insects like mosquitoes and flies, but also for animals that carry diseases like rats, skunks and opossums.

    A few of the life-threatening diseases that these insects and animals can bring include Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Encephalitis and malaria..

    living in a community that has visible dump sites could also wear on mental health. “Our mental health is affected by the cleanliness of the environment we live in,”. “Places known for illegal dumping are regarded as ‘dirty.’ People do not feel comfortable and safe around them.”
  2. Property Values Decrease

    When it comes to urban or residential areas, some of the biggest issues come from people using a vacant lot as a dump or individuals deciding to leave bulk items at the curb when it’s not bulk trash day. While both are considered by many cities to be illegal dumping, the visual message it sends is where the damage is done.

    If a potential buyer comes to a city and is bombarded with bad smells due to an illegal dump site and can’t drive down a street without seeing trash in vacant lots and sitting on the curb, they’re more likely to tell others that the area isn’t where they want to visit or live. And when properties don’t sell, the market in the area as a whole begins to decrease.

  3. Citizens Can Take on Cleanup Costs

    Nonprofit organizations often handle community cleanup efforts through charitable donations. If you live in a city where illegal dumping is prevalent and are lucky enough to have some quality environmental organizations that foot the bill, you may not feel the financial burden.

    If a nonprofit isn’t tackling it, the local government has to step in and allocate funds for these projects. For example, Kansas City has $2 million written into its budget, paid for by the taxpayers, for illegal dumping cleanup. While most dump sites are simple enough to clean up if it’s simply household junk and bags of trash, the financial impact really comes from areas that have household hazardous waste leaking into the environment.

Fighting Illegal Dumping Starts With Small Steps

While stopping illegal dumping entirely would be a great thing, it’s an issue that won’t be solved overnight. However, just because the road is a long one doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start. Maybe you aren’t ready to organize a community cleanup. That’s ok. Start small. Report an illegal dumpsite if you see one. Pick up the litter as you’re walking down the street. Volunteer with a local community cleanup organization. Making an effort is half of the battle when it comes to helping combat illegal dumping.

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