Solar CCTV cameras reducing illegal dumping in Baw Baw Shire

Case study

Project information

  • Name: Illegal Dumping CCTV
  • Lead: Baw Baw Shire Council
  • Location: Six green space illegal dumping hotspots across Baw Baw Shire
  • Themes: illegal dumping, CCTV, surveillance, education, connecting with community

It’s safe to say that no one wants to spend money clearing up other people’s rubbish. Yet ratepayers across Victoria are doing exactly that as they foot the bill for their local council to clean up illegally dumped waste.

“Unfortunately, illegal dumping seems to be increasing in our area,” explained Jessie Ablett, Environment Sustainability Officer at Baw Baw Shire Council. “We spent more than $22,000 last year clearing up illegally dumped rubbish. It’s a waste of money and it’s harmful to the local environment.”

“This really shouldn’t be happening when every resident – including renters – can call and book one free hard waste collection every year and two additional low-cost collections per year. And many of the items being dumped can easily be dropped off at a transfer station, often for free.”

To get a handle on this issue, the council used co-funding from Sustainability Victoria to install CCTV cameras at six green space illegal dumping hotspots, along with signage to deter would-be dumpers. The council also ran an education campaign to promote the surveillance project and council services to dispose of waste properly.

“After installing the cameras, illegal dumping in the six hotspots dropped by 16% over a six-month period,” said Jessie. “We’ve learned a lot about the best way to run surveillance and how to connect with the community to reduce illegal dumping.”

Installing the cameras

A sign warning about CCTV filming and watching for illegal dumping in Baw Baw Shire

Solar CCTV cameras were installed on six-metre poles at six locations with a sign stating: ‘Rubbish dumping is a crime: This area is under CCTV surveillance’. Cameras and signs were positioned so drivers could clearly see them from the road.

No need to dump

“We ran an extensive media campaign so residents would know we were serious about reducing illegal dumping and would prosecute accordingly,” said Jessie.

“We talked about the financial and environmental cost of illegal dumping, but essentially our core message was that no one needs to dump rubbish because we have so many free and low-cost council services to dispose of waste properly.

“If you’re going to the trouble of loading your car with rubbish, you might as well take it to the transfer station, instead of dumping it in a green space. Or call the council and have them pick it up for free!

“We also addressed the common misconception that these services are only available for ratepayers and not renters.

“Our annual hard waste booklet went out to 17,600 residential addresses, with information on the CCTV project. We also reached 47,563 community members through social media.”

Locating CCTV for maximum reach

“When a dumping hotspot covers a whole stretch of road, it’s hard to know where to locate the camera for maximum effect,” explained Jessie.

“Lardners Track in Drouin is a long road that can be accessed without needing to drive past the new camera. We had four incidents of dumping here during the project, with three of them quite far from the camera location.”

Catching illegal dumpers

“The aim of this project was to see how well CCTV cameras deterred dumping, rather than using them as a tool to catch and prosecute the community,” said Jessie. “We did, however, catch two people illegally dumping during the project.

“In the first case, we couldn’t capture the car rego with the camera so high up. We’re thinking about lowering the cameras although this increases the risk of them being stolen or vandalised. We could also buy trail cameras to hide near the CCTV to pick up these details.

“In the second incident, it was too dark to capture the rego. We will look at adjusting the cameras to be activated using a sensor instead of continually filming. We can have a floodlight flick on at the same time, which will discourage dumping but also give enough light to capture car details when it’s dark. We’ll test this first to make sure it doesn’t cause any safety issues for drivers.”

Next steps

“We plan to keep going with CCTV, education and offering council support,” said Jessie.

“We plan to add CCTV cameras to two more dumping hotspots and are using our dumping data to finetune our approach. For example, most dumping occurs at the start of the year, possibly due to cleaning up after Christmas. So, we know we need to do more education, media and patrols in January and February.

“We also know that the top six commonly dumped items are household waste, couches and broken furniture, mattresses, car tyres, white goods and e-waste – mostly televisions.

“So, we need to let the community know that some items can be dropped for free at transfer stations and everything except household waste can be collected for free by the hard waste collection service.

“Household waste is most likely coming from residents living outside of towns as they either don’t have rubbish collections or can opt out of the kerbside waste collection to save the $384 annual change. So, we need to work out how to address this.

“We’ve enjoyed connecting with the community on this project, particularly given the positive response to our free hard waste collection. Education and engagement with the community are vital to tackling the issue of illegal dumping so that we keep our green spaces clean now and in the future.”

More information

Contact Jessie Ablett, Environment Sustainability Officer at Baw Baw Shire Council on 03 5625 0255 or Jessie.Ablett@bawbawshire.vic.gov.au