Can I Leave Unwanted Items on the Side of the Road?

You've just finished opening all the packages the delivery driver dropped off at your home. One of the boxes contained a new TV, so you're going to get rid of your old one. Now you've got a bunch of boxes and a broken old television lying around. You decide to dispose of them, and while you're driving to do just that, you come across a road that doesn't look like it gets much use. Why not just leave the empty boxes and TV there?

Although it might be convenient to leave your unwanted items on the side of a seemingly abandoned road, in Texas, leaving them there is a criminal offense.

What's the Law on Disposing Unwanted Items?

Because refuse left on sides of the road can be a potential safety hazard to the community, leaving things there or on any unapproved site is illegal. The statute that particularly pertains to this is Texas Health and Safety Code 365.012. It says that dumping litter or waste somewhere other than an approved solid waste site is a crime punishable by jail time.

What's an Approved Solid Waste Site?

You can dump your waste and unwanted items at specific places, and you won't face any criminal penalties.

Texas Health and Safety Code 365.011 defines an approved solid waste site as one that is:

  • Permitted or registered by the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission
  • Licensed by a County
  • A collection area that will eventually transport the items to an approved solid waste site

Texas roads, playgrounds, parks, or other public spaces do not fall under the legal definition of a solid waste site. As such, leaving you unwanted items there is considered unlawful.

What Is Litter or Waste?

The boxes and old TV you have aren't considered litter or waste, right? Actually, nearly any item you might want to dispose of can be considered litter or waste.

According to Texas Health and Safety Code 365.011, litter is:

  • Decayable waste
  • Non-decayable waste (except ashes)
  • Combustible waste, such as paper or wood
  • Non-combustible waste, such as glass or aluminum
  • Manufactured materials, such as cars or appliances

Texas also has a definition for solid waste that includes items from treatment plants, such as:

  • Garbage
  • Rubbish
  • Refuse
  • Sludge

What Type of Dumping Is Prohibited by Law?

In Texas, several types of actions fall under the illegal dumping statute.

Prohibited conduct includes:

  • Disposing litter or solid waste at somewhere other than an approved waste site
  • Accepting someone else's trash to dispose at an unapproved place (even if the property is owned by the person receiving the waste)
  • Transporting waste or litter to be dumped at an unapproved waste site

What the law means is that even if it's not your own waste that you have, if you plan on dumping it at a place other than an approved site, you're breaking the law.

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Dumping?

The consequences of leaving your trash at an unapproved waste site are severe, and the class and level of charge you could face depends on the weight of the items you're disposing of.

The penalties for illegal dumping are as follows:

  • Class C misdemeanor: You face this class if the items weigh 5 pounds or less or are 5 gallons or less. A conviction carries a jail term of up to 30 days and/or a fine of up to $500.
  • Class B misdemeanor: This class is charged if you dump items weighing more than 5 pounds but less than 500 pounds, or that are more than 5 gallons but less than 100 cubic feet. A conviction results in jail time of up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Class A misdemeanor: You could be charged with this if you dispose of waste that weighs 500 pounds but less than 1,000, or has a volume of 100 cubic feet but less than 200. A conviction carries up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
  • State jail felony: You could face this if you dump items of over 1,000 pounds or with a volume of 200 cubic feet or more. If you’re convicted you could be held in state jail for up to 2 years and/or be fined up to $10,000.

If you're facing felony or misdemeanor charges in Bryan & College Station, call Rodriguez & Gimbert at (979) 559-3599 or contact us online today. We will work toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.