I've never completely understood what motivates someone to litter. Regardless of whether or not you're an "environmentalist", isn't there something to be said about just making sure the place you live isn't dotted with junk all over the place?

Earlier this year, the Duluth City Council debated closing a portion of a roadway in Gary New Duluth because of "rampant illegal dumping" along the street. This same issue is also seen on a number of other roads in the area, including on West 3rd Street, where I took the picture above.

While discussing the idea of closing the road in Gary, City Councilors admitted this issue has been going on for years, and the city has spent thousands of dollars in removal efforts. Add to that the money spent on signs, cameras, and other attempts to stop dumping and enforce dumping laws. If the junk on the side of the roads doesn't infuriate you, the cost to the taxpayers absolutely should.

In a report about the discussion of the Gary road closure, FOX 21 talked to a resident who surmised the primary reasons this illegal dumping continues to happen is because disposal of some of these items is expensive, and also suggested that some people are just lazy.

Particularly for the people that are on the "lazy" side of the spectrum, or those that dispose of items this way just because "that's the way our family has always done it" or because you think you won't get caught, take a little pride in the town you call home. Duluth is a gorgeous city. Is it perfect? No. No city is. But it's still a pretty great town. Why not keep it looking as great as we can?

I fully recognize there may be people that can't afford the disposal costs of certain items, but when the cost to get rid of a mattress is a matter of a few bucks (more on that below), I can imagine there are some people that illegally dump that could manage to spare the cash to do it the right way and spare the eyesore and ultimately the extra costs to the city, which are passed on to we the citizens anyway. Again, take a little pride in where you live and do your part to avoid unnecessarily inflating the city's expenses. Think of all of the nearly undriveable streets we all complain about that could get some attention with the thousands of dollars the city spends on hauling your junk away.

The mattresses I saw while driving down West 3rd Street are in an area the city is actively aware of as an "issue area" for dumping. There are signs up, and even cameras along this stretch of road - which is just down the hill from Enger Tower and right along the Superior Hiking Trail. Even with the camera and signs, it is a pretty regular occurence to see something laying on the side of the road. This particular mattress pile is just down the way from a no dumping sign, so there's definitely not an excuse for not knowing you shouldn't dump your junk there.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

The most commonly found things tend to be mattresses, box springs, and other furniture, while there are sometimes other items abandoned on roadsides in the area. WLSSD's website offers the initial recommendation of donating furniture to a local charity organization like the Salvation Army or Goodwill - as long as they are not broken and are clean. There are even pick-up services sometimes offered for items. Also worth considering is many mattress, furniture, and appliance stores often offer free or inexpensive pick-up/disposal of old items when buying a new item. They don't recommend donating mattresses or box springs, but do suggest recycling or disposing of them as noted below.

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If items are broken, soiled, or otherwise damaged, WLSSD takes mattresses, box springs, and furniture at their Materials Recovery Center at the corner or Rice Lake and Ridgeview Roads. While it isn't free, disposal costs aren't too out of hand, particularly for mattresses and box springs, which are the most common things found on roadsides.. The WLSSD website lists costs for disposal of items as follows (as of the time this was published):

  • Clean, dry mattresses and box springs can be recycled at the Materials Recovery Center at a cost of $13 per item
  • Wet or dirty mattresses and box springs can be disposed of at the Materials Recovery Center for $15 plus tax for each item
  • Furniture can be disposed of at a rate of $22 per cubic yard plus tax, with the note that some items (like mattresses, box springs, and some electronics) may have a per-item fee. For reference, a couch would end up being about 2 cubic yards, so you could plan on about $44 (plus the tax) to dispose of it

Again, I fully understand that some people might find any kind of cost to be a hardship. I also agree that getting rid of some of these items can be hard to do. Not every transfer station or dump will take them. Luckily WLSSD does offer a location, but it may not be convenient or in everyone's budget. There absolutely should be a better solution than dumping things on the side of the road, however. I don't have the answer to what that is, but it is definitely something our government leadership should consider, because it should not be acceptable to just dump things in the ditch for any reason, whether you can afford disposal costs or not.

Whatever your motivation - personal pride in the place you call home, an effort to protect the environment, saving the city (and ultimately the taxpayers) some money, or simply out of respect for your neighbors, respect our home and don't make our beautiful city a dump.