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Catching rubbish dumpers

Article image - Catching rubbish dumpers Just another Monday morning: one of the mounds of illegal rubbish that appears every Monday morning outside St Vinnie’s on Springvale Road in the City of Greater Dandenong.
New partnerships between councils and charity store operators are helping in the fight against illegal rubbish dumping, with the aim of saving millions of dollars a year.

For a long time, councils around Australia have been searching for a solution to the costly issue of rubbish dumping, with mixed results. The recent increase in landfill levies, as a result of the Carbon Tax, has reportedly contributed to a spike in illegal dumping, and a renewed focus on the issue.
Salvos Stores Sustainability and Waste Manager Donald Munro says that theft from and dumping of rubbish on their network of stores was an issue that costs the organisation around $2.2 million each year.

“We recognise the generosity and support of the donating public and we urge people to donate when our stores are open or to call us on 13SALVOS so we can arrange a home collection. We have guidelines about what we can and can’t accept, yet our volunteers sort through soiled mattresses and bags of rubbish (including nappies) every day.”

In fact, in recognition of the seriousness of the dumping problem, the Victorian State Government has announced a series of grants to help charities fund the extra landfill costs. And, as recently as September this year, the NSW State Government announced that combating illegal rubbish dumping was a NSW 2021 priority, publishing a wealth of resources for councils and others affected by the issue on the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage (OEH) website.

As the incidence of illegal dumping is markedly on the rise in both metropolitan and regional cities and towns, all states and territories, and many local councils, are putting practices, systems and/or legislation in place to tackle the problem.

Two councils in Victoria, working with local charities and police, have recently mounted operations targeting charity store doorsteps, where mounds of rubbish are dumped out-of-hours on a weekly basis. The campaigns have proven successful, and provide councils around Australia with some clues as to how to reduce illegal dumping and the associated financial burden.

Greater Dandenong dumpers face fines

In August and September this year, the City of Greater Dandenong in Melbourne embarked on an undercover operation to both deter and catch offenders in the act of charity store dumping.

The Greater Dandenong Council-funded initiative was formed after Council’s Litter Prevention Officer conducted a test operation in a marked Council car at known dumping sites, successfully identifying a number of rubbish dumpers and out-of-hours donors, and resulting in infringements being issued. The Council then made the continuing ‘sit-off’ operation public, in an attempt to deter offenders.

However, despite the publicity around the campaign, a prominent sign in the St Vinnie’s charity store window and an officer in a marked Council car, Sunday September 23rd saw weekend dumpers having a field day.

During the six-and-a-half hour ‘sit-off’, seven soiled mattresses, bags of household rubbish, couches with tears in them, and piles of clothes were dumped out-of-hours at the Springvale Road store.

As a result, 10 people received fines (up to $5600), six for dumping rubbish and four for ‘interfering with recyclable goods’ (scavenging). The operation as a whole netted 24 infringements, 20 for dumping and four for scavenging.

City of Greater Dandenong Planning, Design and Amenity Director Jody Bosman said dumping poor quality goods and rubbish does nothing to help charities.

“I encourage people to donate good quality, usable goods to charities during their drop off hours. Weekend dumpers give local charities a frustrating Monday morning mess to clean up, a landfill bill, and make footpaths unsightly and difficult to use.”

Illegal dumpers caught in the act

Banyule City Council has experienced a significant degree of success following its trial of a high tech motion detection camera outside the Salvos store in Watsonia, with over 600 people caught on camera dumping rubbish and stealing donated goods since January this year. More importantly perhaps, the volume of rubbish being dumped in the area has been reduced by 75 percent.

In developing the initiative, Council worked closely with Salvos Stores and Victoria Police. The campaign was also publicised widely in an effort to educate the community, including posting clips of rubbish dumpers on YouTube and coverage of the story on A Current Affair, Today Tonight, ABC radio, and in the local newspaper.

Banyule City Council CEO Simon McMillan said that the message to offenders was very clear — if you offend, you will be caught.

 “We’re disappointed that some people think it is okay to steal from, or dump rubbish on, the doorsteps of charities. We’ve erected signage to warn people that they are under surveillance,” said Mr McMillan.

“Illegal dumping is costing councils and charities millions across Australia. We’d prefer to invest ratepayers’ money in improved services, rather than spending it cleaning up after selfish people like this.”

Salvos Stores Sustainability and Waste Manager Donald Munro said that, “Support from Banyule Council has been fantastic and we hope to work with the local government sector to replicate this initiative.”