How big an issue is illegal dumping in Pennsylvania?

In a word, huge. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has identified 6,500 dump sites across the Commonwealth, and they can be found in every county. They’re unsightly and have a negative impact on the environment. What most people don’t realize is that illegal dumping is a crime that hurts communities, businesses and honest citizens.

Cleanups, while necessary, cost about $600 per ton, and average around $3,000 per site. When you factor in the costs of labor and resource-intensive investigation by your local authorities, it becomes even more expensive. That’s money that could be better spent elsewhere in your community.

Is there a better solution?

Yes. Simply cleaning up illegal dump sites does not stop the problem, and it just absolves the dumpers of any responsibility. Studies show that convictions and higher, consistent fines are strong deterrents. In other words, treat the act like the crime it is. However, too many dumpers are found not guilty without tangible proof.

What is IllegalDumpFreePA?

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has launched a program for communities who are sick and tired of illegal dumping and want to do something about it. IllegalDumpFreePA is a cost-effective way for your local law enforcement officials to capture strong photographic evidence of illegal dumpers through surveillance cameras and wireless technology.

How does it work? 

The surveillance kit includes three concealable, lockable cameras and accessories that can capture usable, conviction-worthy footage of license plates and dumpers – even at night. One of the cameras uses wireless technology that can send a picture via text to a registered cellphone when triggered, providing almost instant results. No one has to go to the location and physically remove a memory card, or deal with wires if the cameras need to be re-positioned. Representatives from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will provide technical assistance for installation.

Once a conviction is secured, some photos will be posted to a section of the Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful website and social media channels as a reminder that this is a criminal act. Images will be displayed in accordance with the parameters set forth by local and state laws.

Your community will be able to apply for participation beginning in March 2015. The program is designed as a loan, but there is an option to purchase the equipment at the end of the loan period.

What prompted the launch of the program?

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful conducted a statewide illegal dump survey covering 67 counties for a decade, and also worked on a consumer-based survey in conjunction with Penn State University. The results from those projects showed us just how serious the issue was, and how consumers felt about illegal dumping, recycling and waste disposal.

In 2012, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful hosted an enforcement roundtable with nearly every enforcement agency in the state represented. It was agreed at that time, that a surveillance support or camera loan program was the most appropriate and would be the most effective way for Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to support local enforcement efforts to curb illegal dumping.

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful launched a pilot program in 2013 in a five county region to see just how it would work. We are pleased to report that the program has been instrumental in prosecution and conviction of individuals from Allegheny, Armstrong and Elk counties. Similar programs have been tried in other states, and have been extremely successful.

What would you hope to accomplish?

Both the public and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful would like to see several actions occur. Not surprisingly, most consumers surveyed want to have more convenient access to waste and recycling services. More than 90 percent would like to see fines from illegal dumping going toward site cleanup.

On the commercial side, building contractors, remodelers, roofers, tire and junk haulers should be more regulated for proper waste management, as some of the most commonly dumped items are from those industries.

Isn’t this basically a “public shaming” campaign?

No. The intent of this program is not to embarrass rogue individuals or businesses, but to help local communities and law enforcement officials who are sick and tired of illegal dumping and want to do something about it.

While we know that illegal dumping will never be completely eradicated, we believe this public exposure will bring increased social pressure to do more to enforce and enhance existing laws – as well as educate and change the behavior of those committing this crime.

Who is Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful?

Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful advances its mission through a statewide network of County based affiliates. Our mission and vision is simple – a clean and beautiful Pennsylvania.