Trashing the countryside
WORTHINGTON — Rural residents enjoy the peacefulness and natural beauty of life outside the city limits, but they don’t appreciate city dwellers who bring their trash — from furniture and mattresses to bags of garbage — out to the country roads and dump it for someone else to deal with.
“I see it about once every other month,” said Linden Olson of rural Worthington, adding that garbage dumping is more prevalent in the spring and summer, and almost always ends up in ditches within a few miles of Worthington.
“The big things you find a couple two, three times a year,” he said. “Almost a weekly basis or daily basis you find plastic bottles or beer cans.”
The smaller trash ends up blowing into ditches and baled up with grass hay, or into farm fields, where it goes through combines during fall harvest.
“If somebody did that in Worthington, they’d try to find them and get them arrested and pay a fine for littering, but out in the country, it’s almost impossible to find out who did it,” Olson said. “These areas are kind of the backyards for farmers. (City residents) wouldn’t want it in their backyard, so why do they do it to the people in the rural areas?”
Jerry Langford, operations manager for Schaap Sanitation, said it’s a small percentage of the public who go out and dump trash in rural areas.
“I really do think the majority of the people are pretty decent,” he said. “I think all realize they shouldn’t be throw it in the ditch.”
Langford said the same abuse of the system is prevalent in Worthington, particularly for businesses who have dumpsters behind their shops.
“Somebody’s paying for it for their own personal use or business use,” Langford said. Yet, business owners return after a weekend to find their dumpsters overflowing with stuff they didn’t put in there.
Just last week, Langford received a report of two carts filled with pieces of concrete. The 70-something-year-old woman had no idea where the concrete came from or who put it in her garbage carts.
“It’s the same thing we find at the recycling drop-offs,” Langford said. “Sometimes it might have windows in it or carpeting — it’s that 1 to 2 percent of people who just want to get rid of it.”
Schaap Sanitation does what it can to make it easy for people to get rid of large things like furniture or mattresses, which don’t fit in the garbage carts provided for each city residence.
While the spring clean-up offers curbside pickup, Langford said people can put stuff on the curb any time of the year. They simply need to notify Schaap Sanitation for the pick-up and pay a fee.
It may cost a bit more than the tickets required for the spring clean-up, but it is necessary — especially if a truck has to make a special trip to a site.
Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark said the $15,791 collected from sales of tags for large items during the citywide cleanup earlier this summer is still below what it actually cost to get rid of items curbside.
The sale of tags, combined with the charge people pay on their monthly utility bill, help offset the city’s cost to dispose of those large items.
“Ticket sales were up this year and are a value from the full costs that would otherwise be charged if you went to the landfill or had the item picked up through the normal process with Schaaps,” Clark said.
The issue is that some people just don’t want to pay the price to get rid of their junk.
Olson said that in addition to furniture and garbage bags, he finds a lot of tires.
“It costs money to take the tires into the recycling center,” Olson said. “A car tire may cost $2 or $3. Rather than pay that, they take it out and dump it on the side of the road.”
“They find a road where it looks like nobody’s on, quick dump it off and leave,” he added.
Olson admits that when he finds small items in the ditch, he’ll just dispose of it on his own.
“A lot of times I think we don’t see (the trash) because of residents like Linden Olson who might pick something up and just get rid of it,” Langford said.
For the bigger stuff, however, the township supervisor gets notified. “We always feel you better have things cleaned up ... or the next person thinks its OK to do that.”
Typical protocol for finding trash dumped in rural areas is to contact the township supervisor, who then notifies the sheriff’s office, Langford explained. Once that is done, law enforcement contacts Schaap Sanitation to pick up the trash.
“It’s a community service,” Lanford said. “It’s a clean-up nobody is going to get paid on.”
Daily Globe Reporter
Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.