El Paso Has a Dumpster Problem

I live by El Paso High.

The official name of the subdivision is Alexander Heights, but no one calls it that. Our neighborhood association calls it the Rio Grande Neighborhood. I call it Barrio Heights.

It’s a mixed use neighborhood. We’ve got apartments and single family homes. Corner stores. Schools and a vegan restaurant (if it’s still open).

We are the kind of walkable neighborhood contemplated by Plan El Paso, the award-winning development plan that guides our city planners.

But almost every week there’s a dumpster overflowing somewhere in the neighborhood.

It’s not a new problem. I’ve been complaining about it ever since Beto was my City Representative. Back then the Code Enforcement guy the City sent out to ticket the landlords got so fed up with hearing from me that he ticketed every house on my block for trivial infractions. My neighbor got ticketed for dead fronds on her palm tree. I quit calling.

The last time I called the City’s Help Line, 311, to complain (maybe a year ago) the nice girl who answered the phone said I should call the dumpster company. (Those 311 operators sound like they’re about 16.)

Do you think that El Paso Disposal wants to hear from the neighbor of one of their dumpsters? I don’t pay them and they don’t answer to me.

I’ve called them before. It didn’t work out for me.

A big part of the problem is that the dumpsters just aren’t big enough. The four-yard dumpster that services the apartments across the street from my house is used by 13 apartments. Those 13 apartments are subject to a lot of churn, people moving in and out. They’re cheap apartments, and most of the residents are all looking to move up and out. A lot of stuff gets left behind, and the dumpster is full more weeks than it’s not.

The nice lady at El Paso Disposal who answers the phone tells me that there is a lot of illegal dumping in my neighborhood. She means that people who don’t live in the apartments are using the dumpsters. That’s their standard excuse. And she’s probably not lying, even though she’s misrepresenting the issue. She just doesn’t know any better. They’re isn’t a lot of illegal dumping in those dumpsters. They’re just not big enough.

Apparently it’s no one else’s problem but mine.


  1. Rich – I’ve noticed the same thing and I agree. I think there are a couple big issues here.

    First – these dumpsters are paid for by the property owners. The property owners pay the dumpster companies a monthly fee for dumpster rental and trash collection. If the property owners don’t pay, the dumpster company won’t collect the trash. The dumpster companies offer different size dumpsters. But as you can imagine, the larger ones are more expensive. So the landlords may not want to get a larger dumpster, especially if the trash is coming from illegal dumping.

    Also – the way we pick up trash in our Pre-WWII neighborhoods is backwards (literally). These neighborhoods all have alleys behind the buildings. In most cities, trash bins are placed in the alley and the City picks up the trash from there. In El Paso, trash is collected from the curb. This makes sense in areas that don’t have alleys, but it doesn’t work so well in areas with alleys. These neighborhoods often don’t have driveways, which means trash bins are competing for space with cars on the street or cluttering the sidewalk. I suppose this is less of a problem for trash collected by private dumpster companies, because these containers can be placed in the alley. But if a landlord is ignorant or lazy (as most of them probably are), they may not tell the dumpster company to put the dumpster in the alley instead of leaving it on the sidewalk. The City should make it illegal to have these things out on the sidewalk, but you and I both know not to hold our breath.

  2. The dumpster issue is created by cheap landlords and lazy City Code Enforcers.
    There’s bigger dumpsters and more frequent pick ups available; if only landlords did the right thing and code enforcement did their job.

  3. Nice to decorate neighborhoods with dumpsters and nicer still when they illegally block sidewalks. Dumpsters are ugly and a health hazard. Many appear to be on or near sidewalks or on city property in the photos. Landlords should be fined heavily enough to opt for larger dumpsters and to have them placed on their own property. Dumpsters can be locked to prevent illegal dumping if necessary which is far less likely if not out front on the curb. Blowing trash and smelly dumpsters are a reason people don’t keep their property in good condition. Weeds, dirt and other debris clog gutters and drains.

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