Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

Facts about illegal dumping

Understanding the facts about illegal dumping will help you to design and implement a successful illegal dumping prevention program.

What is illegal dumping?

Illegal dumping is the unlawful deposit of waste larger than litter onto land or into water. Illegal dumping includes waste materials that have been dumped, tipped or otherwise deposited onto land where no licence or approval exists to accept such waste.

Why is illegal dumping a problem?

Illegal dumping can:

  • risk human health and wellbeing
  • contaminate landscapes and waterways, poison plants and wildlife and destroy habitat
  • pollute public places, making it dangerous for people to access or use land
  • degrade the value of land and surrounding properties, and attract further illegal dumping
  • pose a fire risk and endanger people’s lives by blocking access during emergencies
  • hinder maintenance work related to roads and bushfire protection, causing further risks to life and property.

Illegal dumping is a financial burden for the whole community

  • Illegal waste dumping imposes costs on individuals, communities and the government. Cleaning up after waste dumping can have a devastating cost for landowners or occupiers, as well as loss of land value.
  • The NSW Government has to allocate millions of dollars for the clean-up and disposal of illegally dumped waste – money that could otherwise be spent on community assets and services.
  • Individuals and businesses can also suffer financial losses from illegal dumping. For example, landfill operators, resource recovery facilities and recycling facilities undergo loss of income for every tonne of waste that is illegally dumped. Waste transportation companies also lose out when competitors gain an unfair advantage by not paying landfill fees.

What kinds of waste are dumped?

All kinds of waste are illegally dumped. The most common is household waste. Illegally dumped bulk household wastes include whitegoods (such as fridges and washing machines), furniture and mattresses. Other wastes include garden waste, car bodies, tyres, building and demolition waste, animal carcasses and vehicle parts.

What motivates illegal dumpers?

Research shows that unwillingness to pay, an uncaring attitude, and convenience are factors that motivate illegal dumpers. In rural areas additional factors are travel distance or limited operating hours for disposal sites.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recently conducted further social research to better understand the current motivations to illegally dump. The results of this research will be available shortly.

Who does it?

  • Householders who place unwanted items on footpaths or back lanes in the hope that someone will take them or council will remove them without a pre-booked or scheduled collection service.
  • Residents who dump unusable items in or around charity shops or donation bins including usable items that are left in the rain deeming them unusable.
  • Shop owners who place commercial waste beside or into public street bins.
  • Commercial operators who have been paid to dispose of waste but choose to dump waste.
  • Businesses and householders who transport and dump their own waste.
  • Builders and contractors who dump construction and demolition waste or hazardous materials, such as asbestos and chemicals.
  • Land owners who accept waste on their land without the proper approvals.

Where is waste typically dumped?

Urban areas

Nature-strips and on roadsides, bushland, laneways, drains, parks, sporting grounds, private property, vacant land, train stations, electricity substations and charity shops and bins.

Regional areas

Remote areas are one place that may be used to dump waste. Photo: S. Gillis, Penrith City Council

Remote areas are one place that may be used to dump waste. Photo: S. Gillis, Penrith City Council

Remote areas, such as national parks and state forests, recreational areas, including camping grounds, and land that buffers water catchment areas and electricity substations. Other areas include alongside access roads to remote areas, vacant land within close proximity to urban areas, existing residential estates, closed tip sites, former transfer stations and rail corridors.

More information

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Page last updated: 14 January 2015