Call in the cleaners

The Great Truckee Meadows Community Cleanup

Maia Dickerson crouches by an illegal dumpingsite in Sun Valley.

Maia Dickerson crouches by an illegal dumpingsite in Sun Valley.


The Great Truckee Meadows Community Cleanup is May 9, 8:30 a.m. to noon. For more information and to sign up to volunteer, contact Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful at 851-5185, or visit

Amid the red earth, the green sage and the expansive skyline is a couch. A busted, ripped apart couch, unsuitable even to watch a sunset. Nearby, someone has left the remains of a garden project—sod, empty Miracle-Gro bags, plant containers. This is the small stuff. Drive deeper into these back roads of public land in Sun Valley to find mattresses, junked cars and tires.

“It’s not like cigarette butts and things like that,” says Maia Dickerson, program director with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, which is coordinating the Great Truckee Meadows Community Cleanup on Saturday, May 9. “It’s more substantial than that.”

Abandoned junk is hardly limited to Sun Valley. Cleanup volunteers can choose from 10 local sites the event is targeting. KTMB still needs volunteers of all ages to participate in the 8:30 a.m. to noon event, with lunch served afterward. Past years have typically attracted about 500 volunteers. Roughly 100 people were signed up at press time.

Last year, volunteers cleaned up 116 tons of trash, which was slightly down from the previous year, when 144 tons were collected. Providing some indication of a rise in illegal dumping are reports from the district health department of a 50 percent increase in illegal dumping complaints this January through March compared to the same time period last year. The good news is the Litter Index, compiled annually by KTMB, shows that once trash is cleared from these sites, it doesn’t tend to return in significant amounts. Trash breeds trash, and the reverse is true, too, says Dickerson.

Some people don’t tend to think of yard waste as trash, but dumping sod, branches and other bio-waste is a fire hazard. These dump sites are littered with dry, rusty brown, abandoned Christmas trees, a scene particularly irksome to Dickerson, given that KTMB holds a free Christmas tree recycling event every year.

One obvious reason people dump illegally is because they don’t want to pay the fees for proper disposal. Lockwood Landfill just wrapped up its annual Free Dump Week on April 29. However, there are commonly abandoned things that Waste Management, Lockwood Landfill or the transfer stations take for free each year per household: one residential refrigerator; one mattress or sofa; de-lidded and dried out house paint; white metals, such as washers and dryers; one computer monitor or television; Recycle America takes products made by Sony, LG, Zenith and Goldstar for free; two car batteries; 10 quarts of used, uncontaminated motor oil and up to three gallons of antifreeze per residential customer. New2u Computers also recycles a variety of electronic waste at its warehouse in Sparks.

Some of the waste comes from businesses that hire someone to take their trash to the landfill but who, instead, pocket the money and dump it on public lands. “Make sure the people contracted to move your stuff are actually doing that,” says Dickerson.

To report an illegal dump site, call 329-DUMP (3867). If you witness illegal dumping as it’s happening, call 324-COPS (2677). Don’t approach the dumper or remove items from the dump site, but take pictures of the vehicle and get the license plate number, color and description of the vehicle.