Could municipal contracts, penalties curb illegal dumping in Poconos?
Trash removal programs have removed tens of thousands of bags of trash from Pocono roads in recent years, but those efforts fall short of the widespread illegal dumping.
The efforts of volunteers are appreciated, said Jim Lambert, executive director of the Monroe County Municipal Waste Management Authority, during an April discussion on the topic hosted by State Rep. Rosemary Brown (R-189).
“The problem is he’s still here,” Lambert said. “We’re going to be doing this for a long time unless something changes.”
Already this year, the Waste Authority has issued 50% more violations – mostly for illegal dumping and unsightly properties – than in 2021.
“It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse and worse,” Lambert said.
From 2020: Trash is piling up as more people go outside during COVID-19
He proposed two methods to tackle the problem: more municipalities taking control of garbage collection and better enforcement.
In most municipalities in Monroe County, landlords are responsible for individually contracting waste haulers. But if communities provided the service, Lambert said, it would reduce illegal dumping by people whose “method of disposal” is to dump trash-filled plastic grocery bags on the side of the road every day.
“Everyone has it on their doorstep, it’s true, so it’s convenient,” he said. Additionally, studies conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection consistently show that this method is less expensive.
When waste haulers are late due to winter snowstorms, a homeowner has “no chance” of getting service, Lambert said, but a municipality can advocate more effectively by telling the hauler, “Have it picked up that, fix that, or we are going to fine you” according to the contract.
Lambert also recommended tougher penalties for waste and illegal dumping, adding that this is not a victimless crime.
“Give them the big fine,” he urged the magistrates. “Give them a community service to pick up litter, because if you pick up litter, you don’t throw litter away. If you get caught doing illegal dumping and have to go out and clean the streets, you’re going to think twice, because now you’re spending your time outside.
He also urged municipalities to take advantage of containers of cigarette butts that the Waste Authority can provide. The containers have made a noticeable difference in Stroudsburg, Mayor Tarah Probst said, but there has been “very little response” from most communities, according to Lambert.
Precipitation easily carries cigarette butts into streams and rivers, Lambert said, where microplastics pollute the water.
After: Microplastics found in Delaware River, four other Monroe County sites
“Everyone thinks, you throw it out the window, it’s okay, it’s going to decompose,” he said. “No it’s not. It’s made of plastic. The filters are going to end up in our streams.
In addition to Lambert and Brown, the panel included Middle Smithfield Township Supervisors Annette Atkinson and Mike Dwyer, Monroe County Commissioner Sharon Laverdure and Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau CEO Chris Barrett.
Barrett reported that the Pick Up the Poconos effort held on April 23 brought in 1,463 bags of trash from 670 volunteers.