Recycling is a good thing. But people taking advantage of recycling centers to dump things like old furniture, used mattresses, and leftover paint and chemicals can ruin recycling for everyone, as Greensboro, South Carolina is learning. The city already temporarily closed one popular recycling drop-off location due to illegal dumping, and may close more if residents don’t clean up their act, so to speak.

Many state statutes and city or county ordinances ban illegal dumping, but how much trouble can you really get in if you break those laws?

A Huge Cost

“It’s a huge cost to the city to have to bring out another set of trucks to pick up those bulk items, to pick up those hazardous items,” Tori Carle, waste reduction supervisor the for the City of Greensboro told Fox8, noting as well that some dumped items can contaminate perfectly good recyclables. “So your good plastic bottles and cardboard boxes and all those other good things might not be recyclable anymore.”

South Carolina prohibits littering or dumping solid waste outside of designated areas, and ties its criminal penalties to the amount dumped. Dumping less than fifteen pounds in weight or twenty-seven cubic feet in volume is a misdemeanor, leading to a two hundred-dollar fine or 30 days in jail for the first or second offense, while dumping five hundred pounds or more in weight or one hundred cubic feet in volume can get you a thousand-dollar fine and up to a year in jail. You can also be ordered to remove the litter or objects, pay any damages resulting from the dumping, and perform community service as well.

Huge Penalties

Other states criminalize dumping as well. California’s anti-dumping statute creates a separate violation for each day that waste placed, deposited, or dumped in violation of the law remains. Fines in the Golden State can reach $3,000 for a third or subsequent conviction, and be doubled for dumped tires or tripled if the waste matter was “generated in the course of a trade, business, profession, or occupation, or an amount equal to or in excess of one cubic yard.”

Florida’s litter law makes dumping an amount exceeding 500 pounds in weight or 100 cubic feet in volume a felony, including any quantity for commercial purposes, and allows anyone suffering damages from illegally dumped material to sue in civil court for compensation.

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