Editorial: It’s up to all of us to can illegal dumping

The Republic’s Mark Webber reported last week on a problem that we just seem to be seeing more of: illegal trash dumps.

There is one simple low-tech solution to this low-tech problem: Can it, Columbus. Trash goes in a trash can. Large trash that cannot be recycled goes to the landfill. It’s up to each of us to resolve to not be part of the problem.

Yet that’s clearly not happening. As Webber wrote, “While most people won’t admit dumping their trash where they shouldn’t, some will. A new survey indicates 13% of Hoosiers admit they have illegally dumped their refuse on somebody else’s property.”

That is a dirty, rotten shame. We’re better than that, aren’t we?

Food waste, tires, old mattresses, computers and electronics, discarded furniture and more are among the most common nuisance litter that public works crews often are dispatched to clean up, officials said. Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz noted that some of the items most commonly dumped are those that people “have to pay money to get rid of,” particularly tires and electronics.

Besides making areas look like eyesores, these dumps also attract rodents and insects, posing health hazards.

“It irritates me to no end,” Commissioner Tony London told Webber. “It happens all over in the most remote areas of the county. You can go north, south, east or west and find illegal dumping.”

In Columbus, Department of Public Works Director Bryan Burton said most illegal dumping occurs in homeless encampments under bridges, in wooded areas, along riverbanks and on private property. This is particularly upsetting because in the city, many items that get dumped could be collected at the curb if a resident simply called public works at 812-376-2509 to arrange a “bulky item” pickup.

And countywide, you might be astonished by just how much junk can be recycled. You can get those details and complete information on proper disposal at bcswmd.com.

Of course, dumping is illegal. But nabbing and fining offenders is difficult and costly, and it’s understandable that authorities have bigger fish to fry than trying to catch slippery litterbugs and people who illegally dump.

Nevertheless, people who witness illegal dumping can and should report it. You can report an open dump by calling the Indiana Department of Environmental Management at 800-451-6027. Violations of Bartholomew County’s garbage and dumping ordinance are punishable by fines of up to $500 per day. Violators of Indiana’s Open Dumping Law can face a fine of up to $25,000 a day for each violation.

In this age of cellphone video and instant communication, we see no reason why someone who is fed up with illegal dumping shouldn’t discretely record it and share the evidence with authorities, or, if they’re so inclined, with, say, YouTube. Who knows? A few cases like that just might convince dumpers to clean up their act. And even if such a thing never happened, we don’t feel the least bit badly in suggesting to dumpers that it could happen.

Spring officially begins tomorrow. It’s a time of renewal when we welcome bursting, verdant new life and the promise of nature’s bounty. Don’t trash it.