By KATE RAFFERTY
Amid COVID-19 conditions and closure of op shops, illegal dumping and waste pile-up has increased in the Inner West, and locals say the issue is not getting better.
“Just visibly the dumping has increased twice as much in the Inner West,” says Kieran Archee, sales employee at the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre, Marrickville.
“You see it on the streets, everyone has been cleaning their houses like crazy in the last 6 months,” he said.
Across NSW, illegal dumping has spiked. The Environment Protection Authority reported a 34 per cent increase in illegal dumping incidents in April this year compared to the same month last year, and a rise of 42 per cent for dumping of household waste in the same period.
With more people working from home, there’s been a newfound enthusiasm for cleaning up around the house. However, increases in dumping incidents have also been linked to evictions, online shopping, and expats returning home.
At the Bower Reuse and Repair Centre in Marrickville, dumping of household goods has increased as well as general donations, said to Louise Grace, Programs Manager at The Bower.
“COVID-19 has definitely played a part. With so many people suddenly working from home or not working and having time on their hands there has been a massive increase,” she said.
“Dumping isn’t acceptable, even if the item left is the type of thing we would accept we don’t always have space to accommodate it so then it gets damaged from being outside and exposed to the elements,”
Culture of thrift
Despite an evident rise in dumping around the area, Ms. Grace says Inner West residents value environmental ways of disposing household goods, such as recycling, rehoming or donating at op shops and reuse and repair centres like The Bower.
The local Facebook group, Street Bounty – Inner West, has over 20,000 members and promotes the “recycling and reuse of materials, keeping kerbs cleaner, landfill emptier and wallets fuller, many residents express a concern with council led clean-ups, which typically send discarded goods straight to landfill or in trucks to be crushed.”
But Inner West resident Kirsti Claymore says many will opt for their council clean-up anyway:
“Getting council collection is easy and free…and at least with council collection it stops people randomly dumping stuff in back streets,” she said.
Hurlstone Park resident Murray Lewis paid $495 on a private clean up collection after missing the council’s clean up service in May.
“The Inner West council no longer leaves flyers in letter boxes for 6 monthly kerbside clean ups, so our last clean up in May collected almost nothing in the local area.
“When I contacted council and requested a special collection I was advised this is no longer done in the Ashfield area.
I spent $495 on a private collection…I’m sure many cannot afford this and rubbish will be dumped,” he said.
In response, Jamie Parker MP and Member for Balmain said, “it is the responsibility of the Inner West Council to keep our streets clean and safe. It shouldn’t be difficult to ensure a basic level of service given the rates we pay in the Inner West,”
Ideas for new ways to ‘up-cycle’ reusable goods include a drop-off usable goods service run by council, but the Bower’s Louise Grace says that the community also needs to appreciate that environmental disposal is a commitment.
“It can take time and effort to re-home items. Also, for a circular economy model to work people need to buy second hand items, not just donate them,” she said.