We’ve all seen it: trash littering the sides of our roads; garbage floating down our steams and waterways, particularly after a heavy rain; and garbage carelessly being tossed from car windows. While groups like the jail work crew, Stay in Clay, and Project Hope are doing their part to help clean up our beautiful county, more needs to be done. As your County Attorney, it’s my job to work with law enforcement and our county’s solid waste coordinator to make sure that criminal littering laws are enforced.
At the state level, criminal littering is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and or a $500 fine. A person is guilty of criminal littering under state law when he or she:
• Drops or permits to drop on a highway any destructive material or injurious material and does not immediately remove it; or
• Knowingly places or throws litter on any public property or in any public or private water without permission; or
• Negligently places or throws glass or other dangerous pointed or edged substances on or adjacent to water to which the public has access for swimming or wading or on or within 50 feet of a public highway; or
• Discharges sewage, minerals, oil products or litter into any public waters or lakes within the state.
In addition to state law, Clay County has a garbage ordinance that makes criminal littering a violation punishable by a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500; provided, that each day’s violation constitutes a separate offense.
While many of the provisions of our county’s garbage ordinance are similar to the provisions found under state law, the ordinance also makes it unlawful for any person to:
• Deposit garbage in a waste container other than his own without the owner’s written consent; or
• Fail to have garbage collected as provided in the ordinance; or
• Interfere with garbage collectors in the performance of their duties; or
• Burn garbage, unless it’s in an approved incinerator; or
• Dispose of dead animals in a garbage container.
Clay County’s garbage ordinance also provides that when two or more items of garbage (i.e. check stubs, cancelled checks, prescription bottles, utility bills) bearing the same name of a person, the person whose name thereon shall be presumed to have consented to the littering and such littering was done at his or her direction.
While Clay County’s garbage ordinance does not contain a mandatory collection provision, it does provide that residents who do not subscribe to a collection service must take their garbage to a transfer station or other disposal facility and pay the required disposal fees. Thus, the only two choices you have under the ordinance are to pay a collection service or properly transport your garbage to a facility and pay to have it disposed. It’s that simple. Dumping or piling up your garbage on your own or some other property is not an option.
For most of the people of Clay County, criminal littering laws will never be an issue. But, sadly, there will always be a few who do not respect themselves or their fellow citizens or the beautiful county in which we live. It’s those individuals who must be held accountable, and it’s my commitment to the people of Clay County to work with law enforcement and the county’s solid waste coordinator to make sure that all criminal littering laws are properly enforced.