Illegal dumping and littering may seem like a small crime, and for many, they are. However, the consequences of illegal dumping and littering in the US are serious. Not only does illegal dumping affect our communities, property values, businesses, and health, but it also affects our wildlife and our environment.

Illegal Dumping in the US

The Illegal Dumping and Littering in the United States control plan, initiated in 1999, was created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) together with state, local, and tribal governments. This program’s main goal is to educate the public and hold offenders responsible for their actions. The plan identifies the problem of illegal dumping and littering and provides possible solutions. 

One of the plan’s main solutions is organizing community cleanups and rewarding those who report illegal dumping and littering. The EPA and other government organizations have ongoing programs with volunteers who are helping to pick up trash and clean up discarded items. Although these programs are helping clean up our communities and hold offenders accountable, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Illegal dumping and littering is a crime in the United States, and those who are caught are held accountable for the damage they cause. Although some laws are specific to states, federal laws are applicable in each state. The following federal laws cover illegal dumping and littering:

  • CERCLA

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980 also known as Superfund, is in place to ensure that those who are responsible for polluting the environment are held accountable for their actions. 

Under this federal law, the most egregious offenders are referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution. CERCLA provides a civil statute and allows those responsible for illegal dumping or littering to be sued for damages and cleanup costs. 

Anyone caught illegally dumping or littering can be fined up to $250,000 per day that they are in violation.

  •  Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1977 was created to protect surface waters of the United States that are used for drinking, recreation, fishing, and as habitats for fish and aquatic life. 

Under the CWA, anyone caught dumping or littering and discharging pollutants into public waters and wetlands is subject to civil and criminal penalties. 

Specifically, under this act whoever “having the permit required by an effluent standard or limitation, is violating the effluent standard or limitation, or is otherwise in violation of this chapter or any permit issued under this chapter.” 

  • RCRA

The Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 was created to control the disposal of solid wastes to protect human health and the environment. This act reinforces the need for landowners to be responsible for their actions and provides for civil and criminal penalties for illegal dumping. 

Specifically, under this act, whoever “knowingly discards or deposits any solid or hazardous waste in or on any land or water so as to create a substantial certainty of injury to health or the environment.” 

Dump Responsibly

In summary, the consequences of dumping and littering are significant. They include health effects on humans, litter costs to taxpayers, rising disposal fees, filthy landscapes, impairment of water quality and fish habitats, resource depletion, and loss of recreational opportunities. The simple solution to these impacts is proper disposal and reducing waste by following the three Rs: reuse, reduce, and recycle.

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