Illegal Dumping in Albemarle

Yesterday and today, Annie Johnson has had a trio of articles [1,2,3] in the Daily Progress on the topic of illegal dumping.

The materials being dumped tend to be large objects that need to be taken to the Ivy Landfill. But the high costs of the tipping fees ($66/ton for construction debris; compare to an average of $40.32/ton in the rest of the state) seem to be deterring people, leaving landowners footing the cleanup bill when they discover washing machines and couches in their stream. Very rarely do people get caught, and it’s not altogether clear of what the solution is.

I’ve had a gnarly old mattress sitting in a spare bedroom for the past eight months. After all, it’s a long drive to the Ivy Landfill. If I were just a slightly less-decent individual, I can see how that mattress would be neither here nor at the landfill.

15 thoughts on “Illegal Dumping in Albemarle”

  1. I talked about this last year. I said there will be an increase in illegal dumping, which was already bad enough, and that the trashing of Albemarle and Charlottesville would cost the community more in devaluation and maintenance than a more holistic approach to community services. I was denigrated for my counter-trend comments.

    There is no doubt that trying to continue to turn everything into individual ‘profit centers’ – especially micro-level administration – is neither cost effective nor smart planning.

  2. Sympatico, you said that there would be an increase in dumping of household garbage as a result of the increase in trash stickers. Remembering your prediction, I read those articles with an eye towards this. What I came away with was an understanding that the items being dumped are not household trash, and that could not be removed by daily curbside pickup, but instead require hauling to the dump.

    If you picked out something otherwise in the trio of articles, I’d be interested to hear more.

  3. Waldo, I could get into another pissing match with you on the interpretation of my own words. For instance, I seriously doubt an old mattress or a dumped washing machine can be classified as ‘industrial’ trash as opposed to ‘household’ trash.

    But moving on, I said waste management has to be handled from a much larger perspective than simply trying to handle it reactively. I think we can all agree America is a high-consumption society. By shucking away comprehensive waste management planning, and leaving it to individual communities, the situation can only worsen in an economic paradigm of ‘laisser faire’. Now, Virginia, in particular, is a trashy state. It’s part of the regional mores to throw out the window or leave parks full of trash. Compare our highways, byways and villages to those in Vermont, just to stay within the Union, and you will perspective as to our regional mentality.

    My conclusion is consumer trash cannot be left up to individual responsibility, since too many people are not interested in accepting it sensibly. So, at the very least, communities should make it mandatory through indirect taxation, such as via property taxes or even ‘value added taxes’ at the retail level. There are plenty of ways to do this. To minimize the effect on worthy local trash collecting businesses, these could be subcontracted to by the community. Second, police should enact ‘sting’ operations and a trash detective division should be created to find, identify and finally impose strict penalties on people that are in violation. Right now, as you’ve stated, trash is dumped everywhere and there’s no consequence for abusers.

    Lastly, I envision waste management to be a comprehensive plan on the state level, as economies of scale could reduce costs on processing, enable enhanced fixed charges administration and finally could substantiate many other cost-saving and ecologically friendly technologies unavailable to individual communities.

  4. The point is that (it appears) that the trash being dumped is not a consequence of rising trash sticker prices but, rather, the cost and inconvenience of taking trash to the Ivy Landfill. If there has been an increase in the dumping of bagged garbage or things that could hypothetically fit into bags (that is, household trash) in the urban ring, I’d see that as a sign that the cost of trash stickers has led to increased dumping.

    As a nation and as a culture, we do have serious waste-management problems that we haven’t begun to address. I’m all for a some high-profile busts of people dumping illegally. The police department should affix a motion-sensitive camera to a tree at one of the more secluded dumping sites. Come back in a month, get the camera, trace the plates, and nab ’em.

  5. Waldo – trash disposal in our fair land is a ‘discretionary’ spending. A consumer either hauls his/her own trash and pays some fees there, or s/he pays trash stickers or a service. Neither, btw, are cost optimized.

    So, for those that have no trash sensitivity, they dispose of their household garbage either by using someone else’s trashcan (I see this all the time at my place where someone has dropped their trash into my can), or by throwing it in the woods (you need to visit our greenery a little more). These folks, very numerous in our area IMO, will also throw the fridge in the woods.

    You wish to look at the sticker prices for trash bags as an isolated deal. I say it’s part of a whole disfunctional system. The mentality is such that if folks have to pay from out their their beer money, they’ll resort to illegal dumping. I say clean up the whole mess and stop pussyfooting around with stickers and all that nonesense. In other words, don’t make it ‘optional’ or ‘discretionary’.

  6. But, if you do away with trash stickers (in Charlottesville) and tax people for public trash pick-up (in the counties), what’s the financial incentive for anybody to recycle? As it stands, if we recycle, we don’t have to pay for disposal of those items. With public funds paying for all trash pick-up, won’t we suffer the “tragedy of the commons”? I think it’s important that people have some direct, personal reason to reduce, re-use and recyle.

  7. Heh – a urination contest…

    I think you’re both (Sympatico & Waldo) right – just focussing on an unimportant detail. The dumping is so called ‘large items’ which have gotten fairly expensive (as has everything) at the fomer dump cum transfer station.

    The change is this: the city has eliminated the two free large item pickups they used to offer each year. The service is still available, but now costs residents $25/pickup. And guess what: you practically have to go to city hall to set up the pre-paid service. In other words, the costs of complaince are so high that nobody is going to jump through all the hoops. If it were possible to buy a ‘large item pickup sticker’, or to pay over the phone while arranging the service, then people might use it.

    So, Waldo’s right: it’s not the increase in trash sticker cost driving this specific behavior.

    And Sympatico is right: it’s the same general problem – city government keeps trying to balance it’s books by moving ‘non-optional’ (as they see them – obviously some folks are taking a different view) services into fee-for-service category while others which wouldn’t be supported by (subscribed to) by the public are subsidized using our taxes. In theory this is a way for the government to increase revenue without having to call it a tax.

    The county is slightly different, since garbage collection isn’t a service the county has traditionally offered – residents have had to contract for that service, either directly or through their homeowner’s associations. Increases there are more likely to simply be absorbed (albeit unhappily) as inflationary increases. Waldo’s right that these increases don’t appear to have generated a lot of bag trash being tossed.

    Think about your average renter in C’ville, however, who doesn’t own an appropriate vehicle, or can’t get to the Ivy landfill, or can’t make it by City Hall during their business hours to arrange a pickup, or simply thinks the fee is ridiculously expensive – you get midnight dumping wherever it’s convenient. This is no big shock to anybody with half a wit whose ever actually had to get rid of an old couch or appliance, and is very much a direct result of the city changing that policy last year.

  8. harry – In some places of the world, people that recycle actually get a little money for doing so. See, recycling done right, generates revenues…

    cville_libertarian – Basically, you’re saying what Waldo is saying. I don’t see it that way. I think the facts *visibly* bear my interpretation. …and, it’s only going to get worse.

  9. Another element is that we’re trying locally to mitigate a national and global problem.

    Does is not freak you out that our economists label big things meant to last more than three years as “durable goods”? I can’t think of very many things other than food and office supplies that I don’t expect to last at least three years. Our manufacturing and retail structure is based on frequent obsolescence and replacement. But in our current scenario, the people who make goods that are unnecessarily ephemeral aren’t the people who pay for getting rid of them: the consumer does. The same consumer who is fairly well compelled to pay to replace these items too frequently.

    It’s really no wonder that people just drop things off wherever they can — they’re already paying too much in replacement costs.

  10. Elizabeth – I don’t see it that way at all. The US consumer is a hedonistic junkie that buys cheap and unnecessary stuff. Witness the Walmart phenomenon. There’s plenty of high-quality merchandise that lasts longer available to purchase. It’s just this kind of product is not valued by most Americans, who want to keep their credit cards maxed out to buy the latest fad, junk and otherwise frivolous merchandise just to compete with the Joneses.

    Look at our Christmas shopping: these are merely garage sale items for next year. Look at the vehicles most people drive: big hulking SUVs with little real-world functionality in the context they’re used.

    No, the problem is actually merchandise should be *more* expensive. It should include taxes to pay for proper disposal and Americans should value durability and real value over mere ownership. Of course, the whole American economy would come tumbling down from its stilts. I mean, America doesn’t save, doesn’t produce much (700 bio$ accumulating trade deficit) and doesn’t maintain what it has (junks stuff). You’ll see: in 20 years, America will be a ‘has-been’ wasteland.

  11. No, I just lost 2 emails that had the passwords for DaMan and DaMan2. That god the password for DaMan3 is safely secured on my server with high end firewalls.

  12. Sympatico – I’m saying I think your basic idea is right – the “facts” as presented in the article support what Waldo is saying. You may observe lots of extra bagged trash being illegally dumped – it’s anecdotal.

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