Georgia's Litter & Dumping Problem

You don't have to go far to see that Georgia has a litter and illegal dumping problem. Just drive down one of the state's busier highways and count the areas that are strewn with discarded packaging, scraps from blown-out tires, and lonely old shoes. Or, stroll down a back road and look at the old refrigerators and stoves, car batteries, construction materials, and other junk people have dumped for others to clean up! View the 2010 Litter Index.

There Is a Law

Well, in Georgia, there are two laws - one for litter and one for illegal dumping, and they are pretty tough. In 1993, the General Assembly established fines and possible jail terms for individuals and companies caught illegally disposing of litter and waste. Violators can even be ordered to clean up and repair areas contaminated by their carelessness. The laws appear under Georgia's Criminal Code (OCGA 16-7-40 et seq. and 16-7-50 et seq.) and the state's 30,000 peace officers, including the Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Enforcement Unit, have been charged with their enforcement.


The state's litter and waste control laws distinguish between litter and waste essentially as follows. Improperly discarded items exceeding 10 pounds or 15 cubic feet in volume (about the size of a residential garbage can) are classified as waste; all other such items are classified as litter. Examples of both include cans, bottles, boxes, papers, dead animals, sand, gravel, and household garbage. Again, in bulk, these items are considered to be waste and in smaller amounts, litter. Other waste types include discarded appliances, machinery, tires, junked cars, batteries, construction materials, biomedical waste, hazardous substances, and hazardous waste.

Prohibited Activities

In Georgia, it is illegal to:

  • Leave litter or dump waste on any public or private property, including highways, streets, alleys, parks, lawns, fields, and forests
  • Leave litter or dump waste on any public or private waters, including freshwater lakes, streams, canals, rivers, and tidal or coastal waters

These activities are not prohibited if:

  • The property on which the litter or waste is placed is a designated disposal facility
  • The litter or waste is placed in a trash receptacle in or on the property in question
  • The property owner has given permission for the litter or waste to be placed on the property and the litter or waste does not pose a threat to the public health or welfare