Illegal Trash Dumping in St. Louis persists, and so does Environmental Racism

22 Nov

The city knows about these crimes. And yet residents are still left with piles of trash and a lack of community.

By: Emma Kramer

In grade school, teachers always told us to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!” Many people dream that one day this will save our planet. But reality hits, and it hits hard for South City, St. Louis. 


Illegal Trash Dumping has taken over historic St. Louis Neighborhoods. Anything from tires, to drywall and leftover construction supplies, to mattresses and old PVC piping. All left in front of family homes, local businesses, and right in the middle of people’s lives. 


The next video explains the state of these neighborhoods today from the perspective of Leah Clyburn, expert on Environmental racism and an advocate for social change. 



By looking at patterns of these crimes, researchers have pinpointed that the majority of illegal trash dumping takes place in low invested areas of the city that are predominantly black and minority communities. 


A report titled “Environmental Racism in St. Louis” published in accordance with Washington University and The Sierra Club noted this: 


“All six neighborhoods with the most illegal dumping complaints were majority-black: Baden, Dutchtown, Greater Ville, Penrose, Walnut Park East, and Wells Goodfellow.” 


The illegal trash in black and minority St. Louis’ neighborhoods was roughly 22,000 tons in 2017. That same year, only 9,000 tons of trash were properly disposed of. Complaints about the amount of illegal trash dumping from residents in Dutchtown alone have increased by 20% in the last five years. 

Illegally-dumped trash poses many kinds of health risks, such as:

  • The trash may contain chemicals that are harmful to breathe or touch.
  • Nails sticking out of materials, or sharp edges, can cause cuts and infections.
  • The trash may attract animals and insects that carry disease.
  • Broken glass or syringes may also carry disease.
    Illegal dumping can become an even worse threat to
    a neighborhood because seeing the piles of trash may embolden others to add more illegally-dumped trash.

What’s it like to be a resident in these areas? Regina Dennis-Nana is a resident of Hyde Park, another hotspot for illegal trash dumping. Her experience is a prime example of the community impact illegal trash dumping has. 

“We are fighting against a socially accepted narrative about young Black America that has been adopted as a norm.” 

Her goal is to reinvigorate the community around her to take pride in where they are from and demand an end to the illegal conditions that many residents live in. 

Click Here to read the full report, “Environmental Racism in St. Louis”. If you would like to raise awareness for the issue of illegal trash dumping in St. Louis, contact city officials in your area to see what they are doing to end these crimes. 


One Response to “Illegal Trash Dumping in St. Louis persists, and so does Environmental Racism”

  1. Emma Kramer November 22, 2021 at 11:30 pm #

    Video script

    LEAH: If you grow up being told that where you live is trash, then what are you going to believe that you are?

    The effects of illegal trash dumping have taken an emotional toll on the communities of St. Louis. This is no longer just a crime against the environment. The first step is individuals driving into city neighborhoods.

    LEAH: these are low invested or non-invested areas and dump tires, construction, drywall.

    We found that they are coming from areas like st charles we were actually able to identify a specific construction company that was doing it

    On the right, you can see an abandoned construction trailer. Who defines these neighborhoods as low invested areas? It’s actually the City of St. Louis

    LEAH: Its how the city maps out where they’re where its resources and where its funding is going to go to

    It’s remarkable the things you see on one side of Kingshighway versus the things you see on the other, it’s disgusting. The only difference is the people that live there

    LEAH: There’s only one police officer that is looking at these things.

    Do justice right? These illegal dumpings just can’t keep happening

    Leah and other members of the community are still working to help solve these issues. For advocates for action, I’m Emma Kramer

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