City of Detroit aims to educate on illegal dumping, ways to properly dispose of unwanted items

Posted at 2:39 PM, Aug 24, 2022

DETROIT (WXYZ) — "It was just like someone just didn't care about themselves or the neighborhood," said Ruby Robinson as she sat on the front porch of her home on Detroit's west side, looking at a long pile of unwanted items someone dumped across the street, including an old sofa, a massive TV, and other miscellaneous items.

Mrs. Robinson and her husband Walter, who is in his nineties, have lived in their home since 1967. And about two weeks ago, someone came along and decided to illegally dump on grassy lot near the Robinson's.

"It's like looking at a junkyard all day," said Ruby's husband, Walter.

Unfortunately, across the city, too many people are doing what was done to the Robinson's because they either don't care where they dump illegally or aren't educated on how to properly dispose of unwanted items.

Sadly, it's usually because people, who live in the city and in the suburbs, don't care or contractors want to save the money they've actually been paid to properly dispose of the items.

"We see this quite regularly. There's so many ways to avoid it. Leave it in front of your house. Follow the rules and regulations we have and it will go away," said Dhaval Patel, Assistant Superintendent of Solid Waste at the City of Detroit's Department of Public Works.

And with the assistance of surveillance cameras posted all around the city, the Detroit Police Department is prosecuting a number of people who have been caught on video or their vehicles used for illegal dumping.

Too often people think it's someone's job to clean up their mess no matter where they leave it, but that's just not the case.

The city has their own crews and contractors that pick up weekly garbage and bulk pickup every two weeks. But that bulk pickup has to be in front of someone's own home and it's limited to two cubic yards, about the size of two washing machines. Each item cannot be more than 60 pounds and it should be packaged properly so that the average person can easily lift it up and place it into a truck.

Bulk pickup is limited to household items.

For construction materials and anything more than two cubic yards, you must call DPW at (313) 876-0004 to arrange for a paid pickup.

"We're the cheapest game in town by far," said Doug Collins, Superintendent of the Department of Public Works - Solid Waste. "If they choose to place it in front of a vacant lot, that's considered illegal dumping - you could be prosecuted."

And when someone dumps in front of a vacant house, others often add to the pile. "Then, the contractors don't have to pick it up," Collins said.

The one kind of debris that makes up a lot of the illegal dumping in Detroit is brush. And, that it's even a problem is perplexing because there is no limit on yard waste as long as it's properly packaged.

"A lot of our illegal dumping is brush where people trim hedges, bushes, and trees at their home," Collins said. "You can put a thousand bundles in front of your house, if it's properly packaged, the contractors will take that."

Branches and twigs must be cut down to no more than four feet long and tied in a bundle. Each bundle cannot weigh more than 60 pounds. Properly packaged yard waste can also be in a biodegradable paper bag.

On the city's east side, it was seeing all of the illegal dumping in his childhood neighborhood that prompted Mark Covington to begin an effort to clean it up by starting the Georgia Street Community Garden.

"I figured if I cleaned it up, all they were gonna do is dump on it again. So I figured if I planted some flowers, a couple rows of vegetables, people wouldn't dump on food," Covington said.

And, for the most part, it's working, but Covington and other volunteers still have to work harder than they should have to in order to keep the area tidy.

"You could be standing there with the picker-upper and a bucket and they literally throw the paper out the window," he said.

Covington credits his stance on littering and illegal dumping to things he learned as a child from his parents and grandparents.

"If you looked like you were going to toss something out of the car, you better put it in your pocket or leave it in the car until we got home."

Click here for detailed information about how to properly dispose of items in Detroit.