Illegal rubbish dumping across the Lower Hunter has increased by a third during the COVID pandemic as home-bound residents look for quick and cheap alternatives for the disposal of household waste.
All of the region's local government areas have experienced an increase in dumping, however, a particular hot spot has been around Melville Ford near Maitland in recent weeks.
The Newcastle Herald photographed several newly created dump sites alongside the link road to the M1 motorway on Monday afternoon.
A 32-year-old Bellbird man who was fined $2000 for disposing of rubbish in a national park at Pelton and an East Maitland man who was fined $2000 for dumping at Metford were among those caught in recent months.
"Councils in the region have spent almost $100,000 on cleaning up illegal dumping - representing a one-third increase in the normal clean-up spend for this period," Regional Illegal Dumping coordinator Rob Robertson said.
A similar surge occurred following the April 2015 superstorm, when people sought to dispose of water-damaged goods.
The Environment Protection Authority recorded a 34 per cent rise in illegal dumping incidents to 1918 last month across NSW.
Reports of dumped household waste rose 42 per cent to 1111 in April, compared with the same month in 2019, and for green waste and mulch by 30 per cent to 112.
The figures are based on incidents reported to the authority's online reporting service used by councils and government agencies.
Environment Minister Matt Kean said illegally dumped waste cost millions of dollars to clean up.
"Most people do the right thing and book in a waste pick-up service or sell items in good condition through online forums, but some don't," he said.
Mr Kean said instances where people left waste on kerbsides without contacting their council was deemed illegal and could result in heavy fines.
But the main source of information remains tip-offs from the community.
The Hunter RID squad has handed out 42 regulatory notices this year including penalty notices, formal clean-up notices and official cautions.
People caught illegally dumping domestic waste face on-the-spot fines of $2000-$4000.
Businesses face fines of $4000-$8000.
That total can increase if the matters are dealt with in the Land and Environment Court.
Anyone who sees illegal dumping occurring is urged to record the number plate or take a photo if safe to do so and let the RID Squad know at RIDOnline.epa.nsw.gov.au/#/home
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