Living where we do, with a large chunk of bushland on our doorstep in the midst of suburbia, certainly has its benefits. Looking out my window and seeing trees instead of houses; visits from birds of prey and kangaroos in the front yard is wonderful; but our location presents a few unpleasant challenges too – all related to human activity.
One of the major issues is rubbish dumping – there’s no streetlights (and we like it that way) and not all that many other houses; so it’s unfortunately the perfect combination to make our area an idiot-magnet. My blood boils when I see how some people treat this unique and environmentally sensitive place.
For the past year or so I’ve been playing a small part in trying to keep the bushland free of the trash that is blown into the park from roadside dumping or thrown over the fences into the reserve. I estimate I’ve collected around 30 large wheelie bins full of loose bits and pieces, plus a few van loads of larger items so far.
When rubbish dumping occurs along here, it’s anything from a single kitchen bin bag of household scraps to full trailer loads of busted furniture, tires and sometimes toxic waste. Some other items I come across regularly I won’t mention in case you’re eating while reading this.
Sometimes the culprits are foolish enough to leave identification behind which can then be followed up on by local council. In a recent incident, I found dozens of letters all addressed to the same person. In another incident of auto parts dumping, I found a registration label. Thankfully, the council does its best to chase up these people; but it’s very time consuming and there’s no guarantee of a successful prosecution.
Large amounts or large items dumped I usually report to council who send someone out to collect them as I don’t have the resources to deal with big quanitities – but sometimes it can take a week or more for the garbage to be removed. In the meantime the rubbish sits or blows around and becomes an advertisement to other idiots that this is a good place to dump their crap. In our council area, illegal dumping costs ratepayers in excess of $100,00 a year.
A new initiative kicked off by our local council this week to help address the problem has been really interesting so far. When I report a pile now, council compliance officers drop by and cordon the area off with “crime-scene” type tape, along with a sign stating that the dumping is being investigated, detailing the fine, asking the public for leads and giving the culprit one last opportunity to clean up their mess.
I think this is a great idea – while it’s unlikely the culprit will return to remove the junk; it acts as a clear signal to others that some people *do* care about this special place, that it is monitored; that dumping is a crime and if caught and there’s a hefty fine involved. Personally, I think that public flogging should be reintroduced as a punishment, but I guess that’s frowned upon these days.
Even if someone on a low income can’t afford landfill fees, which can be rather high, I assume that most councils would offer some sort of assistance in these situations to prevent that trash from ending up on the side of the road – that’s something I’m going to inquire about regarding our area – if assistance does exist, it probably needs to be better publicized.
Since these “crime scenes” were established, there’s been no further dumping of rubbish along that particular stretch of road so far. It’s still a shame the junk sits there for a while (loose stuff that can blow around is removed), but if it helps gets word around that the park and surrounds isn’t a landfill, I’m all for it.
If you’re facing similar challenges in your area, send a link to this article to your local authorities – the strategy might work well in your neck of the woods.
While the ratio of people who treat this area badly is way too high, it has been very encouraging when I’m doing my daily “rounds” to sometimes come across other folks who do really care about our local environment – and these people don’t even live here. At times I’ve struck people who live miles away, collecting trash as they walk the area – it almost brings a tear to my eye and reaffirms that the ongoing battle is perhaps not a lost cause.
Picking up a bit of trash is something that we can all do when we’re visiting places of natural importance and beauty – consider it a way of saying thank you to nature and also to help set an example to your children and others. There are no rubbish collection fairies – someone has to clean it up and picking up a few scraps isn’t beneath any of us if we want to continue to have nice places to go to
Have you discovered some successful strategies for dealing with illegal rubbish dumping in your area? Please share them below!