Call If You Witness Dumping!

Swinging by a recycling site to drop off recyclables should be an uplifting experience of acting as part of a community doing the right thing. So, many people are angry when they see random non-recyclable items left in and around the giant green bins, sometimes a lot of non-recyclable items. Now, in an effort to catch and fine people leaving junk at their sites, Emmet County Recycling (ECR) is installing surveillance cameras and asking customers to call their office if they witness dumping.

Garbage left at recycling drop sites is a problem nationally. Items dumped at the sites include everything from toys to vinyl siding. Recycling program employees clean up most sites several times a week, but more junk appears. Picking up, hauling and landfilling it all is a big drain on a recycling program’s labor and budget.

The cameras were installed over the fall, accompanied by signs notifying customers that the sites are under surveillance. Now, with the motion-triggered cameras taking pictures of comings and goings at the sites, the ECR team is asking their customers to help them identify those who abuse the recycling sites. A call—to 231-348-0640—reporting the time and site location allows ECR staff to hone in on the photos of the incident. Include what materials were dumped plus the type and color of the vehicle and/or a description of the person dumping. Recycling staff can share the photos with law enforcement, issue fines, and even charge the individuals for the hauling and landfilling of the garbage.

The 231-348-0640 number is on at least one of the bins at each drop site. This reaches the program’s administrative office which is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Outside of these hours a message will do the trick. In addition to their observations, callers are asked to include their own name and phone number, but anonymous tips will also be pursued.

“We’re putting the word out that those who abuse Emmet County’s recycling drop-off sites are on camera and can be fined. This can go a long way toward keeping the sites cleaner,” said ECR Director Andi Shepherd-Tolzdorf. “It’s not fair for people to pass the buck to the recycling program for landfilling junk. Our crew have far better things to do for the community than picking up after people.”

The cameras are a pilot project funded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). The Recycling Partnership (TRP) is managing the grant project. TRP is a national nonprofit focused on improving recycling in the United States and will use information gained from the pilot in their work with communities all over the country.

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