Piles of illegally dumped trash usually greet Rodrigo Alvarez as he makes his way to work each morning in Kansas City’s Ivanhoe neighborhood.
As facility manager of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, Alvarez is charged with organizing the clean-up of the unsightly sites that are a drag on the community. He sees the profound damage illegal dumping is doing to his East Side neighborhood.
Each day, Alvarez and a group of volunteers hit the streets, looking to remove trash, mattresses, tires and other debris that’s been illegally dumped.
It’s discouraging work that resembles a game of whack-a-mole — clean up one garbage pile, and another one soon takes its place.
“I can’t speak for the rest of the city, but I know that Ivanhoe has suffered greatly from illegal dumping,” Alvarez said. “Neighbors have called us constantly. They do not want to wake up in the morning while everyone else has coffee on their freshly cut lawn, they don’t want to have their coffee next to a pile of trash.
“So, they’re frustrated.”
They should be.
On a recent drive through the area, illegally dumped garbage was easy to spot. Black trash bags filled with guck were strewn across a vacant lot at 40th Street and Woodland Avenue.
More trash greeted Kansas City resident Terry Webster as he spruced up his property in the 4300 block of Park Avenue. Around the corner, at 41st Street and Garfield Avenue, used tires were piled up near the curb. More litter bags sat open down the street.
A couple blocks away, at 37th and Olive streets, a discarded TV sat next to an old, dirty mattress and other discarded bedroom items.
The situation has become dire in some areas, Webster said.
City officials should “pay more attention,” he said. “People just drive around and throw garbage right in front of my property. Something has to be done.”
Brandon Ellington agrees. Illegal dumping must be addressed.
The proposal is a needed supplement to the city’s existing solid waste improvement plan.
“The resolution targets neighborhoods that are vulnerable,” Ellington said.
Ellington says a more targeted approach would boost the urban core, which is still littered with trash, despite repeated attempts to crack down on dumping.
The city has taken some action: There are 22 cameras placed at 17 illegal dumping sites. Last year, enforcement officials issued roughly 200 citations for illegal dumping. Yet, the practice continues unabated in certain parts of town.
Ellington believes strategically placing transfer station trash facilities and receptacles on city-owned properties, and scheduling more frequent pick-ups and clean-ups will result in cleaner neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for residents in forgotten parts of town.
After visiting some of those garbage-covered sites, it’s clear that reinforcements can’t come soon enough.