If you live in Vancouver, it’s a nearly sure bet you’ve seen an abandoned mattress or two — or 10.
They’re symptoms of growing problem in the city, and one that costs taxpayers almost $2 million per year: illegal dumping.
The City of Vancouver says it gets about 20,000 calls about trash dumped on city property every year, a number that’s nearly doubled in the last five years.
It said that leads to about 2,500 tonnes of waste collected annually.
“It’s a frustrating activity for us to see. We could be spending that money on way better things here in the city,” Jonathan McDermott, the city’s manager of solid waste told Global News.
“It’s unfortunately, a few people who are not taking that responsibility and the rest of us are paying for it.”
Those dumped mattresses are of particular concern to the city. There’s so many of them that the City of Vancouver employs a dedicated crew that works Monday to Friday, 40 hours a week, doing nothing but collecting and disposing of them.
WATCH: Vancouver considering long-term solutions to stop illegal dumping
And they’re barely keeping their heads above water.
Already, the city has picked up about 4,800 mattresses, taken 12,000 calls for service and picked up 1,500 tonnes of garbage in the first six months of 2018.
It’s not just the city feeling the pressure from dumping.
Contractors like Larry Clay of Clay Construction must constantly watch their sites and waste containers for illegal dumpers.
And if the wrong materials end up in his dumpster, it can get expensive.
“If you put a propane cylinder in there, the disposal company or ourselves could be liable up to $30,000,” he said.
“So we have to go in, visually check to see what’s in there, and make sure nothing gets covered.”
WATCH: Illegal dumping on the rise in Metro Vancouver
It’s a challenging problem for the city. Catching illegal dumpers red-handed is difficult, as is proving somebody is responsible.
Vancouver has tried several solutions in recent years, including jacking up fines for dumpers.
Getting busted now comes with a bylaw fine of between $100 and $500, but could also land you in court or on the hook for a maximum penalty of up to $10,000.
The city also re-dedicated the nearly $4 million a year it saved when it handed over recycling duties to industry in 2016 to funding street cleanup.
McDermott said part of managing the problem is getting the trash off the street before it becomes an invitation to other dumpers.
He said along with enforcement, the city is also putting energy into an education campaign, hoping knowledge will help people behave more responsibly.
Many mattress companies or charities will pick up used mattresses, for example, and dumping one legally only costs $15, McDermott explained.
He said the city is also looking at new ways of watching dumping hot spots, but for now is simply encouraging people to report problems and wait for the trash to be picked up.