This morning I tried to wrap my head around the concept of illegal dumping. Why do people dump trash illegally on the side of the road? Of course we all have things in our basement we’d like to throw out, but there are typically many different systems in place to deal with these things: bulk trash days, open hours at the landfill, private trash collection services, the free page on Craig’s List, etc. As I rode down one of the less traveled roads of my commute this morning, I came upon some city sanitation workers cleaning up a large pile of trash that had been sitting just off the shoulder for a few weeks. They were using a big dump truck and a tiny front-end loader. How many of my city tax dollars go toward this sort of thing? If you are going to take the trouble to drive to some deserted location in order to dump some trash, why not go a few miles further and take it to the dump? What I also find fascinating is that once one person dumps a few things in one spot, more items begin to appear almost instantly. An old stove is soon joined by a beat-up sofa, then a stained mattress box-spring, and so on. It’s like the first person’s criminal activity validates the next person’s. I want to interview these people and explore their reasoning. Is it that they have no problem with breaking the law, but they are considerate enough to keep all the trash in one sprawling pile as opposed to multiple piles spread out over a several-mile stretch of road? Or do they think that the trash itself has acquired squatter’s rights, and that this is now an official mini-landfill?
There are very few businesses on this road I ride on. One of them is a roofing company. Suddenly one day a pile of trash appeared next to their facility. Within a few days, the pile had grown quite high. Eventually they cleaned it up and posted a big sign proclaiming no illegal dumping, and warning that the location was under police surveillance. I was dubious about the potential of this sign to ward off dumpers, given that it was scrawled in childlike writing with blue spray paint, and that they gravely misspelled the word “surveillance.” Sure enough, recently I noticed that a discarded child’s car seat along with some other trash had appeared next to the roofing company. Soon these items welcomed a soiled mattress into their midst, and once again the pile has begun to grow.