Using CCTV to monitor illegal dumping in Cardinia Shire

Case study

Project information

  • Name: Illegal dumped rubbish CCTV trial
  • Lead: Cardinia Shire Council
  • Themes: Surveillance, illegal dumping, CCTV, signage

CCTV is being used more and more in the fight against illegal dumping and is particularly good in isolated areas where no one is around to keep watch.

“We did see a drop in illegal dumping after installing signs and cameras in known hotspots,” explained Nigel Loughridge, Waste Contracts Officer at Cardinia Shire Council. “We have footage of one driver dumping green waste. As he drives off, he notices the camera, stops to read the sign, then puts all the waste back in his ute.”

“But it’s not a perfect solution. Without education and work to change community attitudes, waste can be simply transferred to an unsupervised area. It also takes time to install and set up cameras to get usable footage, not to mention the resourcing needed to monitor footage and carry out any enforcement action.

“We learned a lot about preventing illegal dumping and the council can now use our knowledge and project data to make informed decisions on the next steps to reduce illegal dumping in our region.”

Learning about cameras

“With funding from Sustainability Victoria, we tested two cameras systems; we hired commercial security systems and purchased trail cameras that we could set up and install ourselves. We also bought signage that we could move between various dumping hotspots.

“The hired system was much better at deterring dumping and capturing evidence of dump events. Still images only record a point in time and do not necessarily prove that a dump event has occurred, whereas video footage offers much more conclusive evidence for prosecution. The trade-off is decreased battery life versus increased file storage requirements.

“Commercial systems with night vision and licence plate recognition cameras were also much better at reading registration numbers. Trail cameras by comparison had very limited low light capability and trouble with the reflective surface on registration plates.

“Trail cameras also have a limited trigger distance. If sensitivity is set too low, false event recording consumes battery and storage. If sensitivity is set too high, events can be missed.

“We also installed dummy cameras in a few locations but these had little impact on dumping, possibly because they were not conspicuous enough.”

Surveillance is resource-heavy

“We did face some resourcing challenges as we had a member of staff leave which delayed the project,” said Nigel. “But the biggest realisation was the resourcing needed to run this type of project. We don’t have a dedicated resource working on reducing illegal dumping and litter here at Cardinia Shire, so the project created more work for the existing waste team.

“We have recommended that the waste management team be better resourced to tackle illegal dumping and litter prevention as part of its remit.

“We also spent time moving the signs to create the perception of an active monitoring system. While hard to measure, placing signage in hotspots appears to reduce the incidence of dumping at that location.”

Cameras under threat

“Vandalism was an issue in certain hotspot locations. One of our trail cameras was damaged by rocks and stolen. Another was knocked over and we had to move it to stop more damage. And one of the site security cameras was damaged and had to be replaced by the hire company.”

The community fights back

“Residents concerned with illegal dumping were happy to see the council running this project. They suggested locations for cameras and some even began monitoring local sites. Thanks to their involvement, we were able to arrest one notorious tyre dumper, which significantly decreased rubbish in the immediate vicinity.”

Next steps

“We will keep monitoring dumping hotspots and moving signage regularly. But for these long-standing dumping hotspots, we will also need to address community attitudes to change the dumping behaviour. Otherwise, we risk transferring the problem to other sites.

“We are also working with the Department of Justice and Regulation on a community service program for litter. Ultimately, it’s up to all of us to tackle this issue.”

More information

Contact Nigel Loughridge, Waste Contracts Officer at Cardinia Shire Council on 03 5943 4607 or email n.loughridge@cardinia.vic.gov.au.