By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell
The Development, Planning and Sustainability Committee of the Cleveland City Council met on the 6th of January with environmental consultants to complete an assessment of the City’s waste management program.
Council members were asked by the consultants to contribute their thoughts on what does and does not work about the current system, and any barriers, political, financial, etc., that may impede implementing proposed improvements. The Council weighed in heavily on the issue of illegal dumping, both before and during the pandemic.
Ward 1 Councilperson Joseph T. Jones tells The Observer, “The new collection program limits the amount of debris picked up on garbage day. Bulk pick-up is once a month, and they will only pick-up 2-3 items maximum from on the tree lawn. Contractors and people from other communities come in to Cleveland [to dump] because police ranks are stretched thin, they know they’re not going to get caught.”
The people responsible for committing illegal dumping, according to Jones, are contractors breaking down properties, and residents who don’t have the means to dispose of their bulk trash any other way.
“Since we’ve gone to once a month pick-up, the illegal dumping has absolutely exploded in the city of Cleveland,” Ward 8 Councilperson Mike Polensek stated in Tuesday’s meeting,
Ward 17 Councilperson Charles Slife said he had noticed the problem with apartment buildings: “Your lease is up at the beginning of the month, but the first week of bulk collection may not be for another week or so, so the tenant puts stuff out on the curb and it just sits there.”
“It makes our city look bad” Jones said in the meeting, “because people are now paying other people to take their debris for ten, fifteen bucks, and they go dump it somewhere. We have caught citizens doing that here in our neighborhood. As fast as we are able to clean up other areas of illegal dumps, we have it again. Mattresses are everywhere.”
Jones said illegal dumping is currently most prevalent in his ward in the areas of Mt. Pleasant, Lee-Harvard, and Union-Miles.
Although Cleveland is the Council’s focus, illegal dumping has occurred all over the region for decades, like Brunswick and Seven Hills. In 2013, the City and County collaborated to create an Environmental Crimes Task Force, which includes members of the Cleveland Police, Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, and both administrations’ health departments. Between 2014 and 2018, the Task Force investigated 960 dump sites. Media reports and residents acting as neighborhood detectives have helped combat the issue in the past.
So what can be done now to prevent illegal dumping?
Jones said he would like to see the city have bulk pick-up at the same time as every garbage day. For now, he encouraged residents who witness illegal dumping to get photos, car tag information, any observations, and send them directly to his office.
Slife stated he would like to see better advertising on behalf of the city to make sure the word about bulk pick-ups is getting out: “We rely on social media but if someone isn’t looking at it at the right moment, or not following the right people…I think there’s ways we can publicize better that it is bulk week, and maybe that would mitigate people, whether it’s illegal dumping or just leaving something on a tree lawn for three weeks because they felt like it was their only option.”
Consultant Jim Skora explained the ideas and concerns raised by Council will be considered and added into the assessment. The final report will be sent to Council for review and be made public upon completion.