Environmental policing

Berm-side rubbish – someone else’s problem.

They’re called ‘fly tippers’ overseas – and they attract as much loathing there as they are in Tauranga at the moment.

‘Fly’ as in ‘on the wing’ and ‘tipper’ as in ‘a person chucking something out’.

They’re the sly, irresponsible operators who, under cover of darkness, dump their rubbish on the street, generally not their own, in the hope someone may want it or they will have it removed. Their problem becomes someone else’s.

“We receive complaints about illegal dumping on a daily basis,” says Tauranga City Council’s resource recovery and waste manager Rebecca Maiden. Complaints like this one perhaps.

“Please! To the people who keep dumping their couches and mattresses etc on the side of the road, if it’s not gone in one day then NO ONE WANTS IT,” said one angry and frustrated subscriber to the Papamoa Facebook page. They had driven down Dickson Rd and counted at least “four torn, worn couches and a couple of putrid mattresses” that had been left out in the rain.

They appealed to the suburb slob to show a little pride.

“I love living in our beautiful Papamoa Beach and want to keep it that way.” Not only is the rubbish it visual pollution, it is a significant drain on ratepayer dollars. It hurts pride and pocket.

In the last financial year nearly 70 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish was collected from Tauranga streets, not just Papamoa but citywide. That cost you and me $60,000 to have those soggy couches disposed of.

Some may have the best of intentions. “People put furniture out on the berm to give away for free,” says Rebecca. “But unclaimed or unwanted items tend to migrate down the street and effectively become illegally dumped rubbish.”

Then that good intention becomes unsightly, annoying and there is a community cost.

“Someone’s dumped a couch right outside my place,” says another disgruntled Papamoa Facebook subscriber. “I do not want people to think it’s mine and I also don’t want to make it someone else’s problem by shifting it further down the road.”

The council asks people to take responsibility for their rubbish if it doesn’t get collected. But they also have the enforcement option.

“We can issue fines from $100 to $400 but it’s often difficult to track down the people responsible,” says Rebecca. “Staff will attend illegal dumpings to identify offenders. If they can be identified, we’ll issue warning notices and educate them to prevent re-offending.”

What about the dilapidated barbecue that was offered up to a Mount Maunganui neighbour? When the kind offer was declined it manifested overnight on the berm further down the street. And there was the couch that was dumped in the middle of Papamoa beach.

Well, sometimes it works. One man’s rubbish becomes another man’s treasure.

“Anyone want a fridge freezer,” offered another Facebook writer. “Good bait fridge, garage fridge. It’s out on [street name and number]. It goes well but gets a bit leaky if temperature not cold enough.” But there was a social conscience at play here. “And yes, we will take it to the dump if no takers today.” It was scooped up.

Now what about the big community clean-outs, the rates-funded inorganic waste collections that were held in 1997, 1999 and 2002? It seems there were substantial downsides.

“The volumes of rubbish, and therefore the cost, increased significantly each time,” says Rebecca. “Studies have shown inorganic collections actually promote illegal dumping and take responsibility off the owners of that rubbish. So an inorganic collection would not reduce the number of larger items we would see on the roadside.”

It’s clear no council inorganic collections are planned. Rather, the ratepayer is encouraged to think about how they will dispose of things before they are replaced.

“There are plenty of companies hiring trailers to move rubbish to Te Maunga and Maleme St or other companies who’ll remove rubbish for you.”

And the council encourages “us to become environmental policemen. In other words, see it, report it”.

“We rely on the community to speak up and stop this illegal dumping happening in their neighbourhood. Ensure the people who dump rubbish know the rest of the community won’t accept it.”

In the meantime TCC’s reviewing its waste management and minimisation plan. Ratepayers will get a chance to express their views and ideas on inorganic and waste related matters from late-May to June.

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