AUSTIN, Texas -- As the start of the school year approaches, thousands of UT students are moving in and out of their homes around campus. 

  • Students frequently dump unwanted furniture and other items illegally 
  • Can pose a safety hazard 
  • Can result in a fine up to $2,000

For many, that means getting rid of unwanted furniture, and other household items. 

“It’s super common during move out season around west campus to have illegal dumping violations here," said Victoria Pridgen, neighborhood liaison with the Austin Code Department. 

Illegal dumping is disposing of trash like unwanted furniture in unauthorized spots, and it causes more problems than most realize. 

“Students might not realize it's a violation at all. They might think that somebody else could just come pick it up. But if it doesn't get picked up, and if it's just blocking the right of way, it's a safety hazard," said Pridgen. "Fines for illegal dumping can range from $500 up to $2,000 if folks are caught illegal dumping.” ​

It can even cause problems for fire and EMS officials in emergency situations. ​

“Any time, fire or medical emergency, every second counts. And so trying to get around or having to maneuver around where people blocked exits as they try to move furniture, move boxes, what have you, that causes a problem," said Palmer Buck, Austin Fire Department division chief. "And same thing with allowing people to be able to exits to go in case you have a fire some other type of emergency. We just want people to be a little more cognizant of what they're doing to allow us in case of emergency to make access. And in case of emergency for people to be able to exit the building safely as well."

Illegal dumping can also negatively impact people who are blind or physically handicapped. 

“Illegal dumping can prompt accessibility issues," said Madelyn Morgan, who works for Austin Resource Recover. "If the sidewalk is blocked, and someone needs that sidewalk to to move around, it can definitely be a cause for concern."

MoveOut ATX provides an alternative for students by accepting any unwanted, gently-used furniture, clothes, or household items at its drop off locations around campus. 

In addition to addressing the safety issues with illegal dumping, it’s part of the city’s effort to be more environmentally friendly. 

“The City of Austin is pretty passionate about getting us to our zero waste goal, and that means that all the different departments have to pull together and work towards that and help to get some behavior change happening here," said Pridgen. 

“I'm just very passionate about keeping things out of the landfill for environmental reasons. And the added benefit that this material can be reused in our local community and go back to help our economy is also really important," said Morgan.