Litter & Illegal Dumping In Georgia

You don't have to go far to see that Georgia has a litter and illegal dumping problem. Just drive down one of the state's busier highways and count the areas that are strewn with discarded packaging, scraps from blown-out tires, and lonely old shoes. Or stroll down a back road and look at the old refrigerators and stoves, car batteries, construction materials and other junk people have dumped for others to clean up!

THERE IS A LAW!

Well, in Georgia, there are two laws - one for litter and one for illegal dumping, and they are pretty tough. In 1993, the General Assembly established fines and possible jail terms for individuals and companies caught illegally disposing of litter and waste. Violators can even be ordered to clean up and repair areas contaminated by their carelessness. The laws appear under Georgia's Criminal Code (O.C.G.A. ¤16-7-40 et seq. and 16-7-50 et seq.) and the state's 30,000 peace officers, including the Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Enforcement Unit, have been charged with their enforcement.

Definitions
The State's Litter and Waste Control Laws distinguish between litter and waste essentially as follows: improperly discarded items exceeding ten pounds or 15 cubic feet in volume (about the size of a residential garbage can) are classified as waste; all other such items are classified as litter. Examples of both include cans, bottles, boxes, papers, dead animals, sand, gravel, and household garbage. Again, in bulk, these items are considered to be waste and in smaller amounts, litter. Other waste types include discarded appliances, machinery, tires, junked cars, batteries, construction materials, biomedical waste, hazardous substances and hazardous waste.

Prohibited Activities

In Georgia, it is illegal to:
leave litter or dump waste on any public or private property, including highways, streets, alleys, parks, lawns, fields and forests; and

leave litter or dump waste on any public or private waters, including fresh water lakes, streams, canals, rivers, and tidal or coastal waters.

These activities are not prohibited if:
the property on which the litter or waste is placed is a designated disposal facility;

the litter or waste is placed in a trash receptacle in or on the property in question; or

the property owner has given permission for the litter or waste to be placed on the property and the litter or waste does not pose a threat to the public health or welfare.

Common Violations
Some examples of how people violate Georgia's Litter and Waste Control Laws are:
  • throwing litter out of a car or boat;
  • abandoning old cars or used tires on public property;
  • hauling trash for profit and dumping it somewhere other than a designated disposal facility; and
  • pouring used motor oil, antifreeze or other pollutants into storm drains or manholes.

    Penalties
    Anyone caught littering in Georgia can be charged with a misdemeanor and, if found guilty, can be punished by a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000. The law also allows the court to direct the violator to clean up the littered area and to publish the violator's name in the newspaper.
    Anyone caught illegally dumping less than 500 pounds of waste can be charged with a misdemeanor and can be fined accordingly. Each day a continuing violation occurs is considered a separate violation. Dumping more than 500 pounds is considered a misdemeanor on the first offense. A second conviction is a felony. The penalty for a second conviction is a fine of up to $25,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years (or both).
    Anyone caught illegally dumping biomedical or hazardous waste, or dumping for commercial purposes, can be found guilty of a felony. If convicted, the violator can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to two years in prison.

    What you can do to help
    Although enforcing Georgia's Litter and Waste Control Laws is the responsibility of local and state law enforcement officers, there are a number of ways citizens can help cut down on littering and illegal dumping.

    FIRST, don't become part of the problem yourself.
    Many people don't realize that some of the things they do every day may lead to litter. For example, transporting debris in the back of a truck without a tarp will likely result in the debris blowing onto the side of the road and becoming litter. Similarly, placing unsecured waste at the curb for collection invites animals, or even the wind, to scatter debris along the street. A little prevention goes a long way. You can help by always disposing of litter properly. Never throw trash directly into a dumpster-place it in a bag and secure it before tossing. And always secure cargo with a tarp or other cover before taking it on the road.

    SECOND, get involved in community efforts.
    Participate in volunteer clean-ups, such as the annual "Let's Keep Georgia Peachy Clean" statewide clean-up or local Keep America Beautiful Program activities.
    Join the Georgia Department of Transportation's Adopt-A-Highway Program or the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Adopt-A-Stream Program.
    Spread the word to friends and neighbors that illegal dumping is a crime.
    Invite local and state law enforcement officials to speak to neighborhood associations and civic groups about Georgia's Litter and Waste Control Laws and illegal dumping problems in your community.
    Write or call local elected officials and let them know your concerns about littering and illegal dumping.
    Encourage community and business leaders to provide and maintain trash receptacles where they are needed.

    THIRD, get to know Georgia's laws.
    Contact your local law enforcement agency to report violations. With the public's help, law enforcement and justice officials can more effectively use these laws to prosecute dumping violators and work toward cleaning up the environment.

    FINALLY
    If you'd like more information on Litter Awareness, please contact Keep Georgia Beautiful at (404) 679-4910.

    For information on Adopt-A-Highway, call the Georgia Department of Transportation at (404) 656-5269.

    For information on Adopt-A-Stream, call the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division at (404) 656-0099 or (404) 656-0069.

©2003-2006 Keep Georgia Beautiful