Why Does Illegal Dumping Happen? How You Can Prevent It

Most people want to live in a safe and clean world, but when illegal dumping happens, communities and the environment are threatened.

Did you know that a seemingly discarded couch in a field or rolled away old car tire that became a mosquito hotel are examples of illegal dumping?

Illegal dumping is defined by TCEQ as the disposal, transportation for disposal, or allowance of disposal of litter or solid waste any place other than a landfill or other approved waste disposal site. Some of the most common types of illegal dumping involves items that are difficult to dispose of including tires, landscape waste, construction debris, appliances, furniture, household garbage, chemicals, batteries, and fluorescent lights.

There is a wide range of violations in relation to illegal dumping. From tossing litter out of a car window to disposing of old cars on public or private property, abandoning furniture in an unauthorized place, and dumping oil or other chemicals down storm drains­-illegal dumping is taken seriously and can have negative effects on the environment.

When solid waste or potentially hazardous substances are not properly disposed and managed it can present various hazards to the environment. Rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans can be polluted by plastic products. Wildlife like fish and birds can become entangled in it or be harmed if they consume plastic waste. It can be a fire hazard. Piles of trash and discarded chemicals can combine to create combustible gases and fuel for fires.

If you get caught illegally dumping, you can face steep fines up to thousands of dollars or possibly even jail time. While penalties vary from state to state, illegal dumping in Texas is considered a serious crime and can be very costly.

How you can help

  • Always properly dispose of your own trash and litter and encourage others to do the same.
  • Recycle; this helps cut down on the trend of illegal dumping.
  • Use a tarp or other cover when transporting materials or debris in the back of a vehicle, do not leave it uncovered.
  • Organize volunteer cleanups of illegal dumping sites; people are less likely to dump in clean areas.
  • Report it. If you see illegal dumping taking place, note the time, location, vehicle description, and license plate as well as the items being dumped. If you come across already dumped items, report the location of it.

If you have an item that can’t easily be recycled or thrown in the trash, consider the following:

  • Contact your local waste management program for advice on managing and disposing of these items.
  • For items that qualify as household hazardous waste, check the TCEQ HHW programs list for details.
  • TCEQ maintains a map of municipal solid waste landfillsto help you find a safe, legal place to dispose of other challenging items.

Resources to dispose properly

TCEQ is available 24 hours a day to receive complaints under our authority. Texans can use our online complaint form, or call toll-free at 888-777-3186 to make an environmental complaint. For more information, read about our enforcement process.

In most cases, you can contact your city or county government for assistance or check with resources through your regional Council of Governments.