The Environmental Impact of Illegal Dumping

A local company's mission to battle waste crime

When it comes to illegal dumping, John LaBarge said he knows this problem all too well.

"There are 70,000 tons of waste a year dumped just in the Apex area alone. So yeah, I would say it's a big issue here in this state."

LaBarge is the owner of JP Junk Removal, a veteran and family-owned junk removal and hauling company that's been operating in Southern Nevada for the last six years. Before that, LaBarge ran the business in the Pacific Northwest, and he said illegal dumping was also an issue in Oregon, but not as much as what he's seen here in the Las Vegas Valley.

"I do think the amount of open space we have here is a big part of the problem," said LaBarge. "Just go up to Apex any day of the week, and you will see all kinds of stuff dumped there in the desert."

LaBarge showed us pictures of some of the things people dump illegally on public lands. They range from construction materials to bags of trash to used furniture and even a jet ski! He said this issue has especially gone up in the last couple of years during the pandemic.

"That's when people were stuck at home and decided to do a lot of work on their properties," said LaBarge. "And when it came time to get rid of things they don't need anymore, a lot of people ended up throwing them out in places they were not supposed to. Whether it's because they were too lazy or just didn't want to spend the money to dispose of stuff properly, it's just not right."

LaBarge said illegal dumping not only hurts legitimate companies like his but also it has a huge impact on our environment. 

"We do have desert life here, and it's definitely affected," said LaBarge. "People think a lot of the waste will decompose, but that's not always the case. There are things people toss out that will just stay there and won't get picked up for a long time. And then, of course, there's the issue of toxic materials getting into our waterways via ditches and drains, especially after a monsoon, which can be really dangerous."

LaBarge said when it comes to the issue of illegal dumping, his company also deals with a lot of people doing it in vacant commercial and residential lots, especially ones where the owners are not physically here in the valley. 

"Every week, we do cleanup for clients. I have about 20 clients under contract right now where I swing by their lots at least once a week to look for illegal dumping," said LaBarge. "This is costing them a lot of money. It can literally cost property owners thousands of dollars a year to clean up. The largest lot I had to clean up cost that owner about $30,000!"

LaBarge said his business prides itself as one that is licensed, bonded, and insured, along with being eco-friendly. This means his staff is trained to sort types of waste, so they are taken to the appropriate facility to be either disposed of or recycled. LaBarge said with this commitment to quality service, his pricing does reflect that. And he said there are people who decide to dump illegally or use people who are not working with a license to save a bit of money but may end up paying a lot more down the road.

"I have been in the business for about 15 years now, and we know how to handle all kinds of waste material. Not everyone knows how to do that or cares that they are doing it properly. And there are consequences. He said fines for illegal dumping in Southern Nevada can range from $1,000 to $10,000. “You are hurting the companies you didn't hire. You are hurting the environment and costing people time and money."

Public education is now part of LaBarge's work. He's getting the word out that if people witness illegal dumping, they should report it to local officials and authorities. He advises people to take pictures and get as much information about those breaking the law.

"More people are reporting these incidents, and it's a good thing. We all have a part in helping to crack down on this issue."

To report illegal dumping in Clark County, call 702-759-0600.

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