Research & Reports

Illegally dumped materials cost Melbourne’s 31 councils $10.8m per year to clean up

A Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) survey found that Melbourne’s 31 councils are collectively spending at least $10.8 million per year cleaning up illegally dumped materials.

Following the survey, social research, also commissioned by MWRRG, looked at why so many people were illegally dumping goods such as mattresses, furniture, household rubbish and electronic waste.

The research found that attempted charitable acts are often used as a justification for residential dumping of hard waste material.

The findings of the research into understanding the factors contributing to illegal dumping in metropolitan Melbourne were presented at the Waste 2019 conference, held at Coffs Harbour from May 14-16.

Speaking at the conference, MWRRG Litter and Illegal Dumping program coordinator, Jess Hand, said Melbournians told the group they don’t want their items to go to landfill.

“They want to give their items a second chance at life. People may justify putting items on the kerb as a form of giving, or a charitable act,” she said.

The research found that proximity to a transfer station made no difference to knowledge of disposal options, but participants over 50 years old were more aware of transfer stations, and more likely to use them.

There was also a misperception among participants that all hard waste collected by councils went to landfill, the research indicated.

“We need to make sure residents know how to rehome or recycle items responsibly, using charity stores, online marketplaces or council waste disposal channels,” Hand said.

In 2016-17 metropolitan councils in Victoria collected more than 100,000 tonnes of hard waste, which MWRRG indicates as materials that generally cannot be collected through kerbside collection bins, such as white goods, mattresses, e-waste, general household goods and furniture.

All 31 metropolitan Melbourne councils offer a kerbside hard waste service to residents to dispose of hard waste items in addition to kerbside bin collections, but only 19 councils operate a transfer station.

Litter and consumer behaviour put under the microscope 

Other speakers at the Waste 2019 conference spoke about plastic litter, the role single use plastics play in communities, and people’s behaviour towards littering.

NSW Environment Protection Authority Litter Prevention unit head, Rupert Saville, discussed the NSW premier’s Priority Litter Target to reduce the volume of litter in NSW by 40 per cent by 2020.

He said that so far, 13 litter prevention grant rounds worth $9.4m have been delivered in NSW, as well as 31 litter enforcement training courses and litter prevention toolkits to assist recourses for councils and communities.

With these and other initiatives, NSW has been able to reduce its litter volume by 37 per cent so far, and shift community attitudes and behaviour with the help of the “Don’t Be a Tosser” campaign.

City of Canterbury Bankstown Resource and Recovery team leader, Brad Gray, discussed the need to eliminate single use plastics as an primary option in consumers’ minds.

He talked about phasing them out, which takes planning, engagement, investment and time.

In June 2018 a Council Notice of Motion calling for the phase out of single use plastics helped the City of Canterbury Bankstown council understand where and why these plastics were being used, what behaviours facilitated their use, what alternatives existed and what actions are needed to phase them out.