Caught in the Act
Protect Our Community by Reporting
Illegal Dumping and Littering
Make no mistake: Littering and illegal dumping are against the law. There are, however, subtle differences between the two.
Litter is primarily small items that have been scattered, including paper, food and beverage containers, convenience products, newspapers, and cardboard. Littering can be intentional or accidental. For instance, some trash found along the road — items blown from yards and vehicles or debris left over from accidents — is the result of an unintentional act.
Illegal dumping, on the other hand, is always intentional and done for many reasons: convenience, ignorance, habit, profit, or to hide other illegal activities. Illegal dumping often involves large items or large quantities of small items, such as appliances, tires, bags of household trash, furniture, and construction and demolition debris.
Despite their differences, litter and illegally dumped items are costly and time-consuming to clean up. Both also pose significant threats to the environment and to the health and safety of humans, animals, and the communities they live in.
Therefore, all of us play a role in curbing these problems. One way you can help: When you see someone littering or dumping items where they shouldn’t, report the incident to the proper authorities.
Pay attention to the details
Any improper disposal of trash — littering or illegal dumping — is against the law, and violators can be prosecuted. Many residents, though, are uncertain about what to do when they observe this illegal activity.
Most important, if you observe someone littering or dumping, DO NOT APPROACH the suspect. Instead, get details and descriptions of the incident and turn them over to an enforcement agency as soon as possible. Helpful information includes:
· The license plate number and description of the vehicle involved (make, model, year, and condition).
· Number of people involved, along with descriptions.
· Date and time of incident.
· Direction of travel, if you witnessed a littering incident, and type of litter thrown from the vehicle.
· Location and directions to the site of an illegal dump and the name of the property owner, if known.
· Your name and telephone number.
If a vehicle is involved, the owner is responsible for any trash that has been dropped, thrown, or deposited regardless of who committed the offense. The vehicle license number may be all that you need to report after witnessing a littering incident. However, the more information you provide, the stronger the case will be.
Who to call
When reporting littering or illegal dumping, always start at the local level. Your township officials, for example, are familiar with properties and residents and will be able to respond quickly or point you to the correct authority, which may include the following:
· The Pennsylvania State Police, who have jurisdiction if the violation occurs on a state road or on public or private land that does not fall under the jurisdiction of local police.
· The Pa. Department of Environmental Protection, which responds to complaints of illegal dumping on public or private property. The agency does not respond to litter complaints.
· The Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry, which responds to complaints of littering or dumping in state forests and parks.
· The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Com-mission, which oversees the commonwealth’s surface waters, particularly trout streams.
· The Pennsylvania Game Commission, which should be contacted for littering or dumping incidents on state game lands or on private property that is open to hunting.
Note: Information courtesy of Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.