12 January 2019
Littering and illegal dumping is a hot topic around New Zealand, especially at this time of year when people are away from work completing those jobs they’ve been putting off, families are travelling the country camping at their favourite beach and overseas visitors are checking out the scenery in their campervans.
Littering and illegal dumping comes at a significant financial and reputational cost to the community. It is a community problem and people have to take personal responsibility for doing the right thing in disposing the waste they generate.
Check out the frequently asked questions below to learn more about this community issue.
Why do you charge landfill fees?
There is a cost associated with dealing with our community’s waste.
Landfills must pay two types of taxes – a waste minimisation levy which is fixed at $10 per tonne of waste that goes into the landfill and a envoronmenmtal/climate change compensation for the greenhouse gases created by waste through purchasing carbon credits. Landfill operators must purchase ‘carbon credits’ as part of the Emissions Trading Scheme set up by the Government to mitigate climate change. The cost to landfill operators is currently $25 per NZU (1 tonne of carbon dioxide).
- e.g. 1 tonne of waste creates approximately 1.19 tonne of carbon dioxide
- For every 1 tonne of waste dumped at the landfill it costs $29.75 in carbon credits
- Levies for every 1 tonne of waste = $39.75
The fees charged at the landfill or transfer station gate must cover the operational cost of collecting and disposing all the waste produced by the people of Rotorua. These costs include organisational overheads such as staff costs, insurance, resource consent fees, environmental monitoring,, security and power.
What are carbon credits?
Carbon credits or New Zealand Units (NZUs) are a type of tax on certain industries that produce harmful greenhouse gases e.g. petrol companies, landfill operators or forestry companies.
By putting a price on emissions the Government aims to encourage industry to look at ways to decrease the amount of harmful gas they produce so they can decrease the cost to their business.
Some businesses pass the cost of purchasing carbon credits on to the people producing the harmful gases – the consumers. This means the people making waste or driving cars must pay for carbon they are emitting.
Click here to watch a video about the Emissions Trading Scheme and carbon credit purchasing
Why not just make it free to use the landfill?
The costs for operating a collection and disposal service for waste are real and must be recovered. If we did not charge a fee, all of the cost would fall on the general ratepayers to pay for the waste created by individual households. A user-pays or targeted rates system means people pay for their own waste. Making the landfill free would require a change to Council’s current funding policy.
What about giving people free dump tickets?
The problem is the same as above. There are costs to be recovered for waste management. There is no way to accurately calculate the true cost of doing this as Council would be incurring the disposal and management costs for the volume of waste created. Again it is a matter of funding policy and equity. Council’s current view is that the burden of cost for waste creation should be carried by the individuals who create it not just people who pay rates.
It used to be cheap to dump rubbish at the landfill – why does it cost more now?
Before 2016 the Government helped some businesses by subsidising the cost of carbon credits meaning that landfill operators could keep the fees they pass on to users at lower levels. In 2016 operators were paying 67% of the cost per unit, in 2017 the subsidy decreased and operators were paying 83% and now the subsidy has been completely removed so operators must pay 100% of the cost of carbon credits. In addition tougher environmental effects monitoring requires landfill and waste management operators to incur much higher costs than earlier years.
What is the difference between illegal dumping and littering?
Both activities are considered ‘littering’ and are governed by the Litter Act 1979 however territorial authorities (councils) have the power to either infringe an offender or file charges against them. This decision would be made in accordance with the type and severity of the ‘littering’.
In general terms littering would be in reference to someone throwing a piece of paper on the ground or throwing fast food wrappers out the window of their car. Illegal dumping would be in reference to larger amounts of rubbish being dumped in one location.
What are the infringements and fines for ‘littering’?
An infringement can be up to $400 and a fines resulting from prosecution can be up to $5000 per individual involved. If the ‘litter’ could endanger someone or cause injury or sickness, for example broken bottles, the fine can be up $7500 per person involved.
How much does it cost to clean up illegal dumping?
The average cost of illegal dumping each year in Rotorua is about $100,000. We recover around 150 tonnes per year from illegal dumping. This is a small amount (0.3%) compared to the total waste created in the district of around 50,000 tonnes but indicates that the vast majority of people are acting responsibly and dispose waste through the appropriate channels and collection services.
What type of rubbish is found at illegal dumping sites?
Despite some arguments that illegal littering and dumping is caused by excessive landfill fees the evidence indicates that in most cases illegally dumped rubbish is could be placed in the recycling or general waste wheelie bins available to each household and don’t need to be taken to landfill. Whiteware can be sold to scrap metal yards.
Why don’t you just charge the people that dump rubbish?
Prosecution requires a high threshold of evidence – mail with names and addresses is not enough. It is considered only circumstantial evidence. Prosecuting also comes at a significant cost to Council with no guarantee of a positive result. To be able to prosecute someone Council must have evidence that will be considered credible in court such as CCTV footage that clearly identifies the person or people carrying out the dumping or a witness who is willing to be heard in court.
So why don’t you use cameras to catch people?
Council has deployed and will continue to deploy selective cameras to monitor dumping hot spots. Unfortunately, in the past, cameras have been either stolen or wilfully damaged. No matter how well we hide them people seem to find them. We are also required, under the privacy statutes, to disclose that a site is monitored and evidence gathered might be used for prosecution. So we cannot stealthily monitor the activities of people.
While they may act as a deterrent for some, the likelihood is that people aware of a camera at one site will simply go somewhere else to dump their rubbish.
Cameras also require power which is not always easily accessible in some parts of the district such as rural areas.
Won’t making the landfill free or giving people free tickets stop illegal dumping?
The cost to make the landfill free or giving tickets would be disproportionally and significantly more than the actual cost to clean up illegal dumping each year. Making the landfill fee-free also means the burden of covering the full cost of disposing everyone’s rubbish would fall on just those who pay rates. Regardless, the evidence indicates that illegal dumping is opportunistic and laziness on the part of those who commit it.
We suspect some of the illegal dumping we come across comes from people travelling from out of the district which means they wouldn’t be part of any free ticket scheme.
What about an inorganic collection like they do in other places?
Inorganic collections are not the solution for this issue as some might suggest. Often inorganic collections cause more problems than they solve. People place items on the street that end up blowing into drains or waterways or neighbouring properties and often limits are exceeded, leaving rubbish on the side of the road for residents to clean up. An inorganic collection cost would also need to be recouped through rates which means the cost of removing everyone’s rubbish would again fall on the ratepayers, rather than on the people producing the rubbish.
Such collections operate once or twice a year at a significant cost (in the region of at $1 million per year). However illegal dumping is not time disciplined. It is opportunistic and highly unlikely to be deterred by collection cycles. The people who offend in this way are unlikely to be disciplined or contentious enough to stockpile and wait for collection times.
What has been done so far to stop illegal dumping?
It is very difficult to try and stop illegal dumping because people just move the issue to another location. The issue really lies with people’s behaviour.
The best successes have come from working alongside the community and implementing strategies that the community has suggested. For example in Mamaku Council worked with the community and the school to create murals that were used to encourage people to do the right thing. There has been a reduction in illegal dumping in this community since then. Another community got together and organised a clean up day and skips. Funding was sought through Council’s Neighbourhood Matching Fund so there was no cost to the community and people could get rid of items that don’t go in wheelie bins.
Council has supported 11 community clean ups since August 2018.
Things like removing scrub and trees from problem areas in parks is another way to deter illegal dumping.
Why don’t you put more bins at reserves and other busy areas?
Council must balance being practical and having enough bins for people to use and also not taking away from the natural character of our environment. Often increasing the number of bins just attracts more rubbish.
We have tried adding bins during busy periods but this seems to encourage people to also use them for household rubbish disposal. We have also tried skips but people fill them with unwanted furniture and other large items.
Why are the bins always overflowing during busy periods at popular reserves?
Bins at busy areas get cleared once a day in peak season. On occasion they may be cleared twice a day.
Often within an hour of bins being emptied, they are filled again. A lot of the time we see bins are full of people’s household rubbish rather than items typical of a visit to the park e.g. picnic items.
We encourage people to take their rubbish home with them. This will help stop public bins from overflowing in popular areas.
If bins are already overflowing, don’t add to the pile, take the rubbish home and dispose of it in your wheelie bins.
Can’t you just issue more fines to stop people littering?
Like illegal dumping, it is difficult to catch people in the act of littering or to gain enough evidence to conclusively prove they were the culprit.
Photo evidence or an eye witness who can provide details of the time, place and offender would assist Council.
Why don’t you have staff picking up rubbish?
Finding and collecting litter would require a lot of extra staff and resources that would cause more cost to our community.
During routine collections contractors collect any litter around where public bins are located.
Our inner city team also clean the CBD and surrounding parks every day which includes litter pick-ups.
We rely on information from the community about litter issues so we can organise clean ups.
What sort of education does Council do?
Rotorua Lakes Council works with schools to teach tamariki about rubbish and recycling and how to look after the environment through sustainable practices.
Throughout the year there are a range of educational campaigns such as Plastic Free July and Sustainable Backyards month. We encourage the community to get involved and change their habits to reduce the waste they produce.
Council also works closely with local community groups to organise clean ups, gain funding for projects and other initiatives to encourage change on a neighbourhood level.
How you can help:
- Encourage your friends and family to do the right thing. Not only does illegal dumping cost the community a lot of money, it also has a major impact on the environment.
- Report any dumped rubbish to Council as soon as possible so contractors can remove it before people add to it.
- Take your rubbish home with you. This will help stop public bins from overflowing in popular areas. And if bins are already overflowing, don’t add to the pile, take the rubbish home and dispose of it in your wheelie bins.
- When reporting rubbish it is very helpful if you supply photos that have a location tag. This can be done by turning on your location services on your smart device before taking the photo. This enables contractors to go straight to the dumping site rather than spending time searching for the rubbish.
- If you witness illegal dumping do not approach the offenders but take notes or photos of the person and their vehicle. This can help with identification and prosecution.
- If your community/neighbourhood has an issue with litter and/or rubbish get together with your neighbours and contact Council for advice. Phone 07 348 4199, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook @rotorualakescouncil
The best way to reduce the cost of rubbish disposal personally and for the community is to be smarter about the amount of waste you produce.
If you don’t make the waste, you won’t need to pay for it.
The more people who make this change, the less cost to Council and therefore the ratepayer and the wider community.