For the last several years, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Arc of Anchorage and Alaskans For Litter Prevention and Recycling have been offering an important community service. Just drop your newspapers and cans for recycling at the local grocery store. Put gently used clothing into donation bins at convenient spots around the city. Arc and BBBS sell the clothing to local Value Village stores, which results in important revenue to support the programs of both nonprofits. Sounds easy, right? Not anymore. This community service is in jeopardy, and we need your help to save it.
Increasingly, these bins have become sites for illegal dumping. Even though the bins are clearly marked as to what they can receive, it's becoming a common occurrence for people to leave old mattresses, fish guts, broken TVs, trash and unusable furniture in front of the bins. Every time this happens, the wonderful companies like Carr's/Safeway and Fred Meyer, who have been kind enough to donate their parking space for our needs, have to look at the mess. All they're trying to do is be a good business partner; they never bargained for the trash and headaches that this illegal dumping is causing. The nonprofits have to redirect their own limited resources to pick up the trash and pay dump fees. We have even had bins vandalized -- resulting in hundreds of dollars of damage.
If illegal dumping continues, your ability to conveniently recycle aluminum cans, newspapers and clothing is going to disappear. The BBBS Pick Up Service is in business to raise funds to support mentoring matches, not to spend time and money at the local dump. So I'm appealing to every one of you to help. We must stop the illegal dumping -- and here's how:
Educate everyone you know that the donation bins are only for the items that are marked on each bin. If you have other items to donate, call BBBS at 563-1997 or Arc at 337-6390 to arrange a pickup.
Help us monitor the bins. If you see someone dumping or leaving items other than clothing or recyclables, take a photo of them and their vehicle license plate. Photos can be sent to the Municipality Code Enforcement Department - call their hotline at 343-4141 for instructions.
Report illegal dumping immediately by calling Anchorage Police or the code enforcement hotline. Municipal enforcement officers have promised us that they will make enforcement a priority. The fine for a first offense of illegal dumping is $300 and it increases to $600 for a second offense. Anyone who dumps will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
If you have items such as old furniture, broken electronics or TVs, outdated computers, mattresses, etc., dispose of them properly. A guide on where and how to dispose of items properly is published yearly and can be found on line at muni.org. Take responsibility for your trash, and don't hurt the non-profits who are working to improve our quality of life.
The next time you patronize a business that supports our bins (Carrs/Safeway, Fred Meyer) please thank the manager for his or her support of local nonprofits. These generous companies have put up with a lot of problems, but have stood by us because they believe we provide an important service that is making our community a better place to live.
If you have additional ideas of ways we can stop the dumping and provide a better service, we would love to hear your suggestions. Call us at 563-1997.
Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Arc and ALPAR are committed to turning this situation around. We plan to stage "sting operations" in the coming weeks to catch offenders. We also are working with the city to strengthen municipal code in order to enforce illegal dumping laws more stringently. But, ultimately, the fate of this service lies in your hands. Come on Anchorage, I know that we can do better. Let's catch these offenders and let them know we won't tolerate this abuse in our town.
Kathy Day is vice-president of For the Kids Foundation (FTKF), which operates the Big Brothers Big Sisters Pickup Service. She has been a Big Sister to three girls and hopes FTKF revenue will continue to help offset the costs of providing a Big to every child in Anchorage who needs a positive role model in his or her life.