COVID-19 is contributing to a huge rubbish problem in Australia – and the problem may continue to worsen. Councils across Australia have been reporting spikes in illegal dumping of waste in remote areas and suburban streets.
In July Perth’s City of Rockingham reported a 30% increase in illegal dumping compared to the same period last year, with resulting waste removal costing taxpayers around $4,000 per week. Sydney’s City of Canada Bay council reported a 35% increase in illegal dumping from April last year. And the City of Melbourne council reported a 70% increase in illegally dumped rubbish in April 2020 compared to the same time last year.
Across the whole of NSW there was a 34% increase in reports of illegal dumping incidents in April compared to the year before with 1,918 incidents in just one month. And this illegal dumping issue is hampering charity shops too – stores across the country have pleaded with the public not to dump unwanted or unusable items in 2020 because of the huge clean-up effort required.
Why are so many people dumping rubbish?
There’s really a perfect storm of factors leading to increased illegal dumping in 2020:
- People have been tidying out their spare rooms and storage while they’re in lockdown
- Increased online shopping is leading to increased plastic waste and packaging
- DIY home renovations are leading to increased household building waste, plastic waste and packaging
- Construction and renovations are increasing as a result of newly available building grants, leading to increased construction and hazardous waste such as asbestos, and
- Businesses and individuals are undoubtedly feeling financial pressures and may therefore be more likely to try and avoid waste disposal costs.
Will the problem continue?
Chances are that it will. With increasing financial pressure on individuals and businesses, restrictions easing in Victoria and summer just around the corner, together with easing support networks such as JobKeeper, we can only assume that illegal dumping will continue at a higher level than normal.
What are the costs of illegal dumping?
Australia’s illegal dumping issue has a hefty price tag. The NSW Government reports that more than one in 10 LGAs spend over half a million dollars per year on prevention, monitoring and enforcement of illegal dumping.
Dumped waste can lead to contamination of waterways and soil, the spreading of pests and weed seeds into local ecosystems, and the physical endangerment of wildlife. Not to mention the eyesore and dismay of seeing a pile of rubbish drifting in the wind in an otherwise picturesque scene.
What can be done?
There are millions of dollars being invested in tackling the problem across Australia to mitigate the environmental and financial costs – the NSW Government alone has dedicated $58 million of funding over five years to combat the issue. Of course, there are a number of strategies that can help, including recycling awareness and optimised disposal systems. But for the many illegal dumpers who are aware of the alternatives and consequences and still do it anyway, government camera surveillance and city surveillance systems will play an essential role in 2020 and beyond.
Spectur’s solar-powered remote cameras and deterrence systems provide a three-pronged approach, including:
- Warning and deterrence via a verbal alarm and lighting system that is triggered by human activity, which warns offenders that they are being recorded and should leave the site immediately.
- Alerting appropriate individuals via email and an in-app notification of an incident so they can rapidly respond onsite, using Artificial Intelligence to minimise false warnings.
- Recording the actions ofoffenders until a pre-set time after movement has ceased along with license plate recognition, to provide clear time-lapse footage that can be used in prosecuting individuals and businesses.
Spectur systems are designed and built in Australia for our rugged conditions, and can either be purchased or hired for as little as 60c an hour to help local councils pinpoint areas of concern.
With ongoing reports of local offenders being prosecuted with steep fines, and active warning deterrence systems in place, the right government surveillance system and traffic surveillance cameras will be able to significantly mitigate illegal dumping in hotspot areas.