Sheriff’s Corner: Illegal dumping investigations are on the rise

A sharp rise in household waste generated during the COVID-19 lockdown led to big increases in illegal dumping. Homeowners, businesses and government sites were reporting an increase in illegal dumping activities, which created issues at several locations.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch

This year we have seen an increase in illegal dumping reports. These reports come in many forms and occur several ways. In fact, this activity started getting more noticeable and reported in 2020 during the pandemic. A sharp rise in household waste generated during the COVID-19 lockdown led to big increases in illegal dumping. Homeowners, businesses and government sites were reporting an increase in illegal dumping activities, which created issues at several locations.

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Business dumpsters were being used after and even during business hours. Trash and debris were being left on other people’s property and public property. The Cass County recycle drop off areas were being overrun with garbage and not permitted items. We do investigate these reports and conduct follow up to charge and hold those responsible for the illegal dumping accountable. Illegal dumping has a direct impact on everyone. Everyone pays the cost to clean actions of illegal dumping and can cause property values to fall and discourage new buyers. Waste and illegally dumped items can pollute the local environment and create costs to the county, who needs to step in for the cleanup and to properly dispose of items left at transfer stations or recycle drop offs.

Illegal dumping is putting household or commercial garbage, litter or other items on private property without the property owner’s permission. Into any garbage cart, dumpster or receptacle on someone else’s property or into public trash containers.

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Minnesota State Statute defines illegal dumping as: Whoever unlawfully deposits garbage, rubbish, cigarette filters, debris from fireworks, offal, or the body of a dead animal, or other litter in or upon any public highway, public waters or the ice thereon, shore land areas adjacent to rivers or streams as defined by section 103F.205 , public lands, or, without the consent of the owner, private lands or water or ice thereon, is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

There are several causes of illegal dumping:


  • Lack of enough options for dumping trash and other waste.

  • Lack of awareness or knowledge of certain restrictions by the public.

  • Increased prices for disposal services.

  • Lack of clear understanding of the law.

  • Laziness and lack of respect for private property or the environment.

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How you can help prevent illegal dumping:

  • Take your waste to the right place

  • Only discard acceptable items in designated recycling bins or containers.

  • Illegally dumped waste can create costs to clean up — be aware of what the outcome of illegally dumped waste could pose for you and others.

  • When someone disposes of waste on your behalf, get proof of disposal and know where exactly it is going and how it is being dumped.

Our county-run recyclable drop-off sites have been the subject of illegal dumping especially in the past year. Most of these sites operate on land owned by other persons or other municipalities. Because of these issues and overflows we have lost several of the sites, creating less opportunity for legal options to dispose of recycling. We have investigated several cases of illegal dumping at these sites and have referred them to prosecution via citations. It is important to note that many of these sites are under video surveillance. Items that we have investigated for being illegally dumped at recycle areas range from mattresses, electronics and appliances to construction waste. These are not acceptable items to dispose of at these locations and create a cost to the county to properly dispose of them.
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Cass County offers many options for solid waste disposal and recycling drop off sites. A website link for an informational pdf can be found from the Environmental Services website here: .

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: By email at ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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Related Topics: CASS COUNTY
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