Illegal dumping is the unlawful deposit of waste larger than litter onto land. This waste material is dumped, tipped or otherwise deposited onto private or public land where no licence or approval exists to accept such waste. Illegal dumping varies from small bags of rubbish in an urban environment to larger scale dumping of materials in isolated areas, such as bushland.
Illegal landfilling, which is waste used as fill material with the consent of the owner or occupier of the land but without the necessary council or DEC approvals, is also considered to be illegal dumping. Demolition and/or excavation waste is often used as fill material for reclamation work, roads, noise mounds and landscaping. Illegal fill material may be contaminated with chemicals or waste, particularly asbestos and other building waste.
Illegal dumping is a constant and highly visible problem in NSW.
Businesses and individuals dump illegally to avoid either disposal fees or the time and effort required for proper disposal.
Items typically dumped illegally
- General household rubbish
- Larger domestic items (e.g. mattresses, furniture, whitegoods)
- Construction and demolition waste including excavation waste and asbestos
- Garden organic material
- Chemicals and other hazardous waste
- Abandoned vehicles, car parts and shopping trolleys
Environmental costs of illegal dumping
- Can degrade the land, including degrading plant and animal habitats.
- Can destroy local bush land, reduce biodiversity value and hinder revegetation.
- Runoff from dump sites may contaminate soil and water sources, such as lakes, creeks and drinking water supplies.
- Dumped items can alter the normal drainage course of runoff and make areas more susceptible to flooding and erosion when waste blocks creeks, stormwater drains and gutters.
- Dumped materials could catch fire either by spontaneous combustion or arson, which can damage property and bushland.
- Illegally dumped items are a lost resource. Many items can be recycled, particularly garden organic material, beverage containers, fridges, computers, tyres and car bodies.
Social costs of illegal dumping
- Reduces aesthetic amenity and deters people from visiting areas where there is frequent illegal dumping.
- Dumped items create physical (protruding nails or sharp edges) and chemical (harmful fluids or dust) hazards for anyone who does visit the site.
- Dump sites attract rodents, insects and other vermin that pose health risks. “Dump sites with scrap tyres provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitos, which can multiply 100 times faster in the warm stagnant water standing in scrap tyre castings.” 11
- Thousands of volunteer hours are spent participating in clean up initiatives, such as Clean Up Australia Day, Keep Australia Beautiful and Tidy Towns, at a significant cost to the community’s resources.
- Dump sites attract further dumping and other criminal activities, such as graffiti and arson, which decrease community pride and further exacerbate the problem.
Financial costs of illegal dumping
- NSW local governments are estimated to spend $10 million a year removing and properly disposing of illegally dumped materials and landfilling. For larger councils, these costs can be as high as $400,000 annually.
- The community bears the cost of lower property prices because the area is less attractive to prospective commercial and residential landowners.