No one likes to see piles of rubbish in their neighbourhood. But someone is clearly responsible for leaving it there.
“Here in Brimbank, every dollar we spend is designed to continually improve the lives of people living here,” said Huong Truong, Sustainability Coordinator for Brimbank City Council.
“Unfortunately, this does include a considerable sum spent on cleaning up litter and illegal dumping to keep our natural environment clean and safe for residents. We wanted to see if certain highly visible enforcement actions like cameras and signs would reduce dumping.”
“We picked two litter and illegal dumping hotspots – one industrial and one residential,” explained Huong. “In the industrial area, we put up signs and fixed three direct-streaming cameras to very visible and movable infrastructure.
“In the residential area, we fixed two permanent cameras to power poles and put up signs.”
“Our litter enforcement officer, waste services team and environmental education officer provided regular monitoring, education and engagement.
“We wrote to local businesses and residents to let them know about the cameras and what we wanted to achieve.
“We also got the community involved in an educational artwork project, designing and installing drain decals at 100 council-owned stormwater drainage points.”
“We recorded litter and illegal dumping data before, during and after the project.”
“We had a really positive result with a 41.5 and 50 per cent reduction in illegal dumping in our target areas,” said Carmel Ron, the council’s Environmental Education Officer.
“The higher rate at the residential estate could be due to the letter drop because social pressure to do the right thing is higher in built-up areas. The industrial estate is more anonymous, with quieter areas for dumping unseen.
“Our litter prevention officer said anecdotally that word had got around that ‘council has installed cameras everywhere – you can’t dump here’.”
“We found that large-scale, highly visible infrastructure did significantly deter illegal dumping in our hotspots,” said Huong. “Interestingly, the perception of surveillance was as effective as actual surveillance so publicising the use of cameras was important.
“We liked the community interaction from creating and implementing the drain decal artwork. This kind of activity helps communities to get involved and take ownership of litter and illegal dumping issues.”
“Having a litter enforcement officer involved was an extremely effective way to show people that the council was taking dumping seriously and being pro-active. It would have been good to employ a part-time officer to help with enforcement as it was hard to continually monitor the sites to record all instances of illegal dumping.
“One thing we learnt is that we need to be ready to react to new hotspots. The cameras deterred dumping, but offenders were finding new spots with no cameras or signage. We ended up moving one of the cameras in the industrial estate to capture these areas. So being reactive and using mobile infrastructure were both crucial to our success in reducing dumping.”
“We also had some delays because it was hard to coordinate staff from several council departments,” explained Huong. “Scheduling regular meetings led by the project officer was the best way to manage this.”
“Footage from the cameras installed on the industrial estate was variable. We couldn’t read all the number plates, so follow-up enforcement wasn’t possible.”
The council has now invested in a permanent, large-scale set-up similar to that hired as part of the project. This set-up can be moved as needed to target emerging hotspots.
“The cameras and signed installed in the residential area will remain,” said Huong. “We will trial a ‘best engagement approach’ by contacting residents in multi-unit dwellings through face-to-face doorknocking, mailouts and working directly with body corporates.
“This has been an effective way to reduce illegal dumping. We’re excited to keep going to make Brimbank even more liveable, now and in the future.”
Contact Huong Truong, Sustainability Coordinator or Carmel Ron, Environmental Education Officer at Brimbank City Council on (03) 9249 4716.
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