It’s an all too familiar but unwelcome sight in the Illawarra – mattresses, TV sets, lounges and other junk dumped in bushland and at the side of the road.
But the problem is becoming so acute that the region’s authorities are turning the spotlight on illegal dumpers.
This week James Vincent, the regional illegal dumping co-ordinator for the Southern Councils Group, will perform aerial surveillance in a helicopter with members of the Sydney Water Catchment Authority to pinpoint the region’s dumping hotspots.
Mr Vincent’s eyes in the skies project will coincide with a new television advertising campaign, funded by the Southern Councils Group and the Environment Protection Agency, targeting the illegal dumping of green waste.
The green waste advertisement will go to air from now, and will be screened for the next four months, a period in which historically there is an increase of illegally dumped green waste.
Southern Councils Group Chairperson and Wollongong’s Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery, said illegal dumping across the region was a major concern, particularly with the rising costs of clean up and the environmental impacts of dumped waste in bushland.
‘‘Dumping rubbish shows no care or respect for our community or the environment,’’ he said.
‘‘The cost of cleaning the mess left by irresponsible members of the community is impacting on the rest of us, with more ratepayer money being used to foot the clean-up bill right across the southern region.’’
Cr Bradbery said dumping created an eyesore and ruined the beauty of natural areas, parks and neighbourhoods.
‘‘Dumped materials often attract further illegal dumping, leading to a serious state of degradation,’’ he said.
Mr Vincent said illegal dumping was becoming a big issue for the region.
He said sometimes people wrongly assumed tip fees were not affordable, as a result of the increase in fees brought about by councils trying to absorb the hike in state government waste levies.
‘‘We’ve got information to prove that it costs people more money to dump if they get caught, and they are often driving more out of their way to dump,’’ he said.
‘‘There was a case in Orange recently in which three teenagers were caught dumping. They were driving along a bush track in a ute and throwing garbage bags out the back of the ute.
‘‘Little did they know they were under surveillance. It was an EPA operation along with the councils up there.
‘‘They got fined [collectively] $5500.
‘‘They were then ordered to pick up the dumped material and take it to the tip and their tip receipt was $7.80 and they had gone 16 kilometres further to dump it than what they would have travelled to the tip.’’
Mr Vincent said the latest campaign was timely as many believed green waste dumping was acceptable.
‘‘It’s definitely not and it’s illegal,’’ he said. ‘‘Many people get their green waste and go and dump it in the bush and so it breeds weeds and, especially with the weather we’ve had of late, it washes down our waterways and straight out to our beaches.’’
A Wollongong City Council spokesperson said the organisation had received 98 dumping complaints in the past three months.
From these complaints, six penalty infringement notices and four clean up notices were issued.
Offenders can be given on the spot fines of up to $1500 for individuals and $5000 for businesses, with offences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act reaching up to $250,000 and possible jail time.
Cr Bradbery said anyone who witnesses or comes across illegal dumping should report it to the EPA hotline on 131555.