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Your trash may not be another man's treasure, so don't just dump and run

HAD park rangers not found 10 huge rubbish bags of Wandering Tradescantia dumped around Sherbrooke Forest, the destructive weed had the potential to invade and choke the forest floor where the lyrebirds dance.

Bunyip State Park in Gippsland, and the Merri Creek catchment's rare remnant native grasslands faced similar problems when Couch and Buffalo grasses were left by people who cut through parkland fences and pushed down the gates.

These ''illegal dumpers'' can be fined, if caught, and are becoming more common, cunning and costly to the community and environment. And the groups that deal with the mess they leave behind urge the public to report the culprits to police or relevant authorities.

To "dob in a dumper" requires at least a car registration number, location, times, dates and description of the dumped waste. A photograph of the person in the act can help a prosecution. Yarra Council received 1500 reports of illegal dumping in 2009-10.

Those who weren't caught but helped dump more than 2000 mattresses, hundreds of couches, whitegoods, furniture, clothing or renovation debris around Yarra's inner city neighbourhoods, cost ratepayers a $250,000 clean-up bill during that time, according to acting mayor Geoff Barbour.

The rubbish has to be cleared because the law of wanton waste, which Cr Barbour says builds up in drifts in Fitzroy and Richmond back lanes, is that "rubbish attracts rubbish".

It is particularly problematic around cheap-rent, multi-unit blocks with fast tenancy turnovers.

Charities selling donated goods well know rubbish attracts rubbish. Abbotsford Salvo store outlet manager Melinda Walker says "cleaning up rubbish is always the first job of the day".

At a Salvos store recently, staff spent three hours sorting saleable items from garbage before they could walk in the shop. Ms Walker says that while many people give old goods as a genuinely charitable gesture, more than 80 per cent of donations are fit only for the tip.

A rubbish truck comes daily to Ms Walker's store to take bags of wet, picked-over clothing, "the dog-stained mattresses and the fridges with no doors". The Salvos pay the landfill levies.

Allen Dewhirst, chief executive of Salvos Stores, estimates that their stores across Australia spend $5.5 million a year for rubbish disposal. This is serious money, he says, that could be more ''effectively spent on the programs we run to help and support the community''.

A lot of the clean-up time and tipping costs forced on to charities could be saved, Mr Dewhirst says.

"If people asked themselves: 'Would I use it or wear it?' If not, don't donate it because we can't use it either." The Salvos certainly can't use the grass clippings sometimes stashed amid the mountains of bulging plastic bags.

People need no longer be put off by the effort of transporting hard rubbish to the tip and paying, sometimes expensive, fees to dump it. Aside from the annual hard rubbish collections, many metropolitan councils have instigated further free collection services of up to two square metres for the price of a phone call.

Darebin Council grants one free waste service per household, per year. Manningham offers two, while Yarra Council provides as many as a household can justifiably need.

Within a week of booking a hard waste pick-up, the rubbish should disappear from the nature strip.

Parks Victoria, VicRoads, the big charity stores and municipal and regional councils are preparing for another high season of illegal dumping.

Warm days and long weekends of spring encourage household clean outs.

The problem spikes again just before and after Christmas, and, funnily enough, immediately after hard rubbish trucks pass through a neighbourhood - those who miss collections feel no compunction in dumping the stuff they no longer want, somewhere that someone else will have to clean it up.

Source: The Age - www.theage.com.au


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