A Functionalist Perspective on Illegal Dumping
Illegal dumping is the disposal of waste or trash in areas other than permitted disposal sites. Forms of illegal dumping and litter include disposing of empty cans in a forest, pouring factory waste down a storm sewer, placing furniture along a back property line, dropping a bag of grass trimmings in an open field, and discarding cigarette butts on the side of the road. The many forms of illegal dumping translate to high costs for the environment and to society to clean up the waste. Dumping also violates the rights of land owners and society because of tax money spent cleaning up or restoring the site of dumping. Trash and waste decrease the property value and natural appeal of public and private properties. More than a quarter of a million dollars are spent by many counties across the United States annually to deal with illegal dumping and litter (Integrated Waste Management Board, 2014). The real cost of illegal dumping is evident in the numerous community health and safety issues associated with dumping, not just the cost of cleanup.
Dumping may not seem like a big deal to some people at first since it doesn’t seem to affect other people in many cases. In fact in some cases, dumping nonhazardous waste on one’s own property can be considered illegal dumping. The reason that certain dumping events are outlawed is that oftentimes the activity violates the health and safety of the community or the environment. Local government ordinances are designed by the community to protect the shared well-being of the community. Violators often face a fine for a minor offense and larger fines and/or jail time for larger offenses.
Community health and safety may be negatively impacted in various ways by the inappropriate disposal of waste. Waste dumped in open areas may be accessible to people who could step on sharp glass or a rusty nail, slip on sludge, or accidently set off a fire. Discarded tires are breeding grounds for misquitos and dangerous bacteria and parasites. Discarded mattresses could attract ticks, bed bugs, mites, mice and rats. Dumped materials may also attract other types of illegal activity like people searching scrap to look for copper who might be deterred into a residential neighborhood. The increase in crime associated with dump sites could increase insurance rates and decrease property values for those nearby (Louisville Metro Government, 2013).
People who choose to dump illegally do so for mainly one reason: convenience. In the cases of large appliances or toxic waste, normal garbage collectors are not able to pick up these materials so they must be taken to special disposal sites for proper disposal which incurs a fee. Individuals know that the fee and trip could be avoided if they are able to dump these materials undetected into a field or storm sewer; particularly if these are located in a rural area and it is dumped at night time. Spaces like vacant homes and open places also...