Illegal trash dumping in South St. Louis is causing harm to minorities


According to a report titled “Environmental Racism in St. Louis,” illegal trash dumping in St. Louis happens in areas with majority Black or minority populations.

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 St. Louis.

Leah Clyburn of the Sierra Club poses in front of a riverbank in South St. Louis. The Sierra Club worked with Washington University. Photo contributed by Leah Clyburn.

Illegal trash dumping has taken over historic St. Louis neighborhoods. Tires, drywall, leftover construction supplies, mattresses, old PVC piping and more are left in front of family homes, local businesses and right in the middle of people’s lives.

Leah Clyburn from the Sierra Club feels the emotional effects of this crime are mounting.

“If you grow up being told that where you live is trash, then what are you going to believe you are?” Clyburn said.


By looking at patterns of these crimes, researchers at the Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic at Washington University School of Law have found that the majority of illegal trash dumping takes place in low-invested areas of the city which are predominantly Black and minority communities.

Washington University and The Sierra Club published a report titled “Environmental Racism in St. Louis.”

“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.


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,” Dennis-Nana said.

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.

Illegal Trash Dumping still continues in St. Louis. For residents like Dennis-Nana, the visible neglect leaves community members wanting more from their city representatives.

“Do Justice. These illegal trash dumping can’t just keep happening,” Clyburn said.

Click Here to read the full report, “Environmental Racism in St. Louis.”

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Emma Kramer
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