As illegal dumping continues in Macon, why aren’t people using free resources?

Garrett Thomson and Cecilia Williams examine a pile of illegally dumped tires following a volunteer event at the dump site where the tires were unearthed in preparation for removal.
Garrett Thomson and Cecilia Williams examine a pile of illegally dumped tires following a volunteer event at the dump site where the tires were unearthed in preparation for removal.
Megan Jackson

Loose garbage and pieces of furniture litter the roadside and spill onto the pavement of Churchill Street in west Macon. Tires are piled by the dozen as household trash bags are tossed on the side of the road and left there.

Churchill Street is one of many illegal dump sites in Macon-Bibb County despite the availability of free places county residents can legally dispose of  items commonly found in illegal sites. 

Convenience centers are free locations where county residents can dispose of any excess non-hazardous waste. Non-hazardous waste is any waste that could cause fires, reactions, or explosions when not properly handled or waste that could be hazardous to human or environmental health.

The centers are run and managed by the Macon-Bibb Solid Waste Department in compliance with the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 

All Macon-Bibb convenience centers accept waste for things like furniture, bagged household garbage, tires, yard debris and recycling. The location on 11th Street, however, also accepts concrete, batteries, and paint.

Tires are the only non-hazardous items with a limit, four per person, yet the Macon-Bibb Solid Waste Department and organizations such as Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful continue to see accepted items illegally dumped.

“In a lot of these illegal dumps that I’m seeing, like, furniture, excess garbage, tires, just, your daily normal stuff that we collect for free,” said Macon-Bibb Solid Waste Manager Maurice Jackson.

Jackson says the locations of the three centers were chosen by convenience for the public, and the operating hours are based on times the centers receive the most traffic. 

Jackson says around 2,000 people utilize the convenience centers weekly. 

“Once you show your ID, they ask you what you have to dispose of, and they point you to each container that you need because we have to have it separated,” Jackson said.

Jackson says he does not understand why Macon-Bibb county residents choose not to use free resources provided by the county. 

“I think it’s out of convenience and just laziness,” he said.

Asha Ellen, the director of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful, shares similar sentiments.

“Unfortunately, we have some people who simply don’t care and, you know, that’s the hardest part because people don’t care where there is no longer a sense of pride for one’s self and one’s community. Those barriers are hard to break.”

KMBB hosts monthly volunteer based cleanups for litter and illegal dumping, but Ellen says it is difficult for the organization to fully clean illegal dump sites because they can become dangerous for volunteers who may not have the necessary equipment. 

“When it’s to the point where it’s too excessive or sometimes dangerous for volunteers to handle, then I will refer that over to the either public works or solid waste department,” Ellen said.

Jackson said the solid waste department started working with code enforcement in January to catch people who are illegally dumping. So far, the county has made four citations and three arrests for illegal dumping.  

“I wish I could wave a magic wand and just make everyone have the same common sense when it comes to keeping areas clean,” Jackson said. 

Jackson also stresses the importance of community members reporting instances of illegal dumping and similar community issues.

“If you see something, say something,” Jackson said. “You can do it anonymously.”

To report illegal dumping, Macon residents can use the SeeClickFix app or website or call the solid waste department at 478-803-0499.

Jarvis Ryans, a Middle Georgia resident who recently purchased property near an illegal dump site on Churchill Street, is disappointed in the state of the area.

“I’m scared to show my grandmother the little raggedy house I bought. Because if she come down here she’d be mad,” Ryans said.

Ryans suggests the city install more cameras in known illegal dumping areas, or place removable dumpsters that can easily be taken to proper processing areas.

“We’ve got to remedy this. It doesn’t make any sense,” Ryans said.

Illegal waste litters the side of the road on Churchill Street. (Megan Jackson)

Another Middle Georgia resident, Garrett Thomson, has taken illegal dumping cleanup into his own hands.

Thomson began renting dumpsters hosting cleanups with help from volunteers from Middle Georgia State University after he took a wrong turn down a street in Macon and happened upon an illegal dump site.

“Right now I’m funding it on my own,” he said of the cleanups. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the money. It’s about the street and the people in the neighborhood and everyone else. And the impact it’s going to have.”

Thomson hopes to continue cleanups by partnering with other Macon-Bibb organizations in the future.

Jackson says that since the opening of the convenience centers, the most recent in August of 2023, there has been a decrease in illegal dumping in the county, but it is still up to citizens to report problems to the correct authorities. 

“We just have to continue it, you know? Am I not saying it will eliminate it, but I think it will get to about maybe 80% better if we keep on doing what we’re doing right now,” Jackson said.

Macon-Bibb convenience centers are located on 11th Street near the closed landfill, 4214 Fulton Mill Road behind the animal welfare center and 1520 Ninadel Drive, according to the Macon-Bibb Convenience Center website. 


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