CLEVELAND — Some Cleveland environmental activists and neighborhood leaders believe the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in a large amount of roadside litter and illegal dumping popping up in all parts of Northeast Ohio.
Debbie Pawlus said her Lorain Avenue neighborhood has been hit hard with illegal dumping and litter along alleyways and Interstate 90 located behind her home.
Pawlus is concerned increased drive-through service triggered by the pandemic is causing more drivers to simply toss their food wrappers and more out of their vehicles.
“We’ve organized huge clean-ups, then you turn around and then there is stuff like this again," Pawlus said. “People are going to the fast-food places and taking their Styrofoam containers and everything and just throwing them where they want. We care about our neighborhoods, we have families here, we have children that play in the neighborhood.”
Cleveland Train Avenue resident Rodney Bragg said pandemic-inspired home improvement projects have left his neighborhood with piles of illegally dumped sinks, old painting equipment and broken down home furnishings.
“They don’t come and clean nothing up, they don’t care or something or they’re too lazy to work," Bragg said. “They take on a job at somebody’s house and this is their dumping grounds.”
News 5 contacted Ward 3 Cleveland Councilman Kerry McCormack about all the litter and illegal dumping. McCormack agreed increased surveillance and enforcement are on his priority list in 2021.
"A couple things that we're proposing right now, we're looking at more cameras in the area, to help cut down on the people who are doing this," McCormack said. "Hopefully identify vehicles, license plates, etc."
Ohio Department of Transportation District 12 headquarters said it's also responding, taking steps to address roadside trash issues that have hit Northeast Ohio highway interchanges and exit ramps especially hard.
ODOT issued the following statement in response to our story:
We are acutely aware of the litter situation and have been dedicating crews to this work since the snow has melted. Just last week in northeast Ohio, more than 5,500 bags of trash were picked up. We will continue this effort.
Meanwhile, both Pawlus and Bragg are hoping the city will implement some type of litter public awareness and school education program to help slowdown the ongoing cycle of trash and illegal dumping.
“This only breeds more, when you see what’s behind me," Pawlus said.
"I mean, I want them to teach kids at an elementary school level, like we were trained, so they at least know better.”