By LESLIE COLLINS
November 12, 2012
Illegal dumping is an issue that affects all of Kansas City, but one area that’s especially hard hit is the Historic Northeast.
According to the city’s Public Works Department, 40 percent of the illegal dumping service calls originate from the 3rd Council District. The 5th District comes in second with 26 percent of the illegal dumping service calls, followed by the 4th District, 15 percent; 6th District, 8 percent; 1st District, 6 percent; and 2nd District, 5 percent.
Historic Northeast is the No. 1 area where the Public Works Department implements Code 16, which utilizes city trucks to survey neighborhoods and remove illegally dumped trash, said Michael Shaw, assistant to the director in the Solid Waste Division of the Public Works Department.
Asked why he thinks illegal dumping is more prevalent in Northeast, Shaw said one possible reason is Northeast’s diverse community. In Northeast, residents hail from a number of different countries and their customs and norms are not always the same as those in the U.S., he said. Another factor is Northeast’s transient population, he said. In addition, the remodeling of homes in Northeast also generates waste, he said.
To combat illegal dumping, Public Works regularly partners with a number of organizations, like neighborhood associations and the Metropolitan Community Service Program (MCSP).
From January through September, more than 2,300 bags of trash were collected through MCSP, which equated to approximately 93,840 pounds of trash. Through the Neighborhood Clean-up Assistance Program, 177 neighborhoods have benefitted this year and 423 dumpsters have been placed during clean-ups. This year to date, 1,744 tires have been collected. Northeast has “good community leaders” who are instrumental in organizing clean-ups of the area, he said. Antifreeze, Batteries, Oils, Paint and Tires (ABOPT) Collection events are also held several times each year in different areas of Kansas City.
“Every neighborhood is different on what their needs are,” Shaw said. “That’s the good thing about the event. It actually meets the neighbors on the needs they have most.”
Code officers also issue tickets to illegal dumping and illegal set-out violators and tickets can range up to $1,000 for repeat offenders. During a 9-month period in 2010, 3,200 tickets were issued, and the city saw a significant decrease in the number of improper set-outs, Shaw said. Improper set-outs are when residents illegally dump items in their yard or at the edge of the street. Earlier this year, Northeast News reported on an incident along Sunrise Drive, where a resident moving out of his home exceeded the city’s limit on the number of trash bags set out in his yard, and left a number of items strewn across the yard. Northeast News rented that dumpster to help clean up the mess.
Although educating the public about illegal dumping is a solution, Northeast presents a challenge in that providing information in a bilingual format isn’t enough, he said. A number of languages are spoken in Northeast, making it difficult for the city to present information, he said.
One program Shaw hopes to eventually implement in Northeast when funding allows is a trash cart program, where residents are given trash carts to wheel to the curb instead of leaving out unprotected trash bags. Through a pilot program, 10,000 trash carts have been distributed citywide, including at the Guinnote Manor in the Columbus Park area. Before distributing trash carts to Guinnote Manor, trash was a “significant issue,” he said. However, since the distribution of trash carts, the landscape has dramatically changed.
“That to us is a success story of how that tool helped that neighborhood,” Shaw said.
Inside each trash can lid is an educational insert that includes information on proper ways to dispose of trash as well as who to contact when there’s an issue.
A large number of houses in Northeast don’t have garages and it’s not unusual for residents to set out their trash early, where animals and people can dig through the bags and create a mess, he said. The cost for each cart is $40 to $45, which adds up quickly, he said.
Shaw encouraged Northeast residents to work with neighborhood leaders on clean-ups as well as contacting the city’s 311 Action Center, (816) 513-1313 to report issues. Shaw also encouraged Northeast residents to be ambassadors for their community and adopt a block to clean. It’s about changing behavior, he said. If residents work with the Public Works Department and take pride and ownership in their community, trash won’t be a problem, he said.