Parts of the city of Denver have become unofficial, and unwelcome, grounds for disposal. Construction companies and private homeowners alike use vacant lots or alleyways to dispose of everything from old Jacuzzis to construction materials leftover from build sites. One of the leading culprits are contractors who use these side streets and lots to dump remodeling debris, including household fixtures such as sink basins. In addition, many of these contractors will use the thousands of roll-off dumpsters located throughout the city to freely dispose of their waste.
This has turned some neighborhoods into virtual landfills, with all manner of debris piled alongside dumpsters and waste bins. One city councilman surveying a neighborhood on the city’s southwest side remarked, “we have to get people to realize this neighborhood is not a dumping ground…we refuse to be treated like this”. The city received over 4,000 complaints in 2012 of illegal dumping in various parts of the city. When a complaint is received, Denver’s own waste removal services must drive out to the location and pick up the offending waste. In total, this removal service cost the city a quarter of a million dollars in 2012 alone.
Denver’s problems with illegal dumping can be partly sourced to lax penalties concerning the unlawful disposal of waste materials. Currently, the city only charges $96 for a single infraction of the city’s disposal requirements. This fine is barely higher than the charge for using local landfills. Even those who receive the fine end up saving more money without having to spend gas money to reach landfills that are located outside of the city.
The city council of Denver is now seeking to enact a law that would authorize the police to confiscate any vehicle caught dumping waste illegally. The measure is designed to be a deterrent, as many local contractors and construction companies would be hard pressed to replace an impounded truck without it affecting their business. It is hoped that the crackdown on companies and contractors will also deter residents from illegally dumping their own waste, or at the very least make it far more noticeable.