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Overflowing bins. Diapers in the recycling. Smoldering charcoal in the trash. 

Hampton officials say they’re seeing a rising number of violations to the city’s household waste regulations.

That’s increasing government costs and in some cases threatening worker safety, according to the city.

Officials now hope increases to the penalties for such violations, which take effect Saturday, will help curb the problems. Hampton City Council approved the changes earlier this year.

City spokesperson Robin McCormick said recent rule-breaking has included blocking trucks from making pickups and putting out hazardous waste like asbestos.

Hampton’s household trash is burned to make steam for NASA — “so you’re endangering not just the driver of the truck, but you're endangering everybody at the steam plant,” she said.

One of the biggest issues happens in the recycling bin.

People toss in just about anything, either hoping the items are recyclable or “using it as a second trash bin,” McCormick said.

Only paper, bottles and cans are recyclable curbside in most of the region. 

That means no plastic salad containers, wrapping or plastic bags, which are more harmful than helpful when they arrive at the recycling plant.

Before 2019, the city of Hampton paid nothing for the materials it recycled and even earned a little money to offset collection costs. 

That fall the city started paying $95 per ton to get buyers to take the materials. A couple years ago that rose to $119 per ton. 

“The cost of recycling has gone through the roof,” McCormick said.

The changes followed a global upheaval in the recycling industry stemming from China’s decision to stop accepting most of the world’s materials.  

As with many local governments affected by those market changes, Hampton has considered stopping its curbside program. Chesapeake got rid of its service last year.

“I can't say we'll do it forever, but we truly want to do it and we want to do it well,” McCormick said. “It's the better thing for the environment.”

Trash violations also sometimes cost the city money by delaying pickups and extending time drivers have to be on the rounds.

Hampton used to send residents three warnings before a $25 fine. They’ll now only get one written warning. 

Second-time offenses will cost $50, followed by $75 for any additional rule-breaking.

McCormick said Hampton is sometimes known for letting residents slide, but the city wants that to change.

“It's not fair to have everybody pay for the cost. The people who break the rules ought to pay for the cost,” she said. “But in truth, we just want everybody to follow the rules.”

You can find a full list of the regulations on the city’s website.