Territorians would be forced to pay higher rates if a free bulky waste collection service was introduced, Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury says – and the service would be unlikely to curb illegal dumping.
Just three people were fined for illegal dumping at charity bins last financial year and since July no fines have been issued, TAMS figures reveal, despite the problem continuing to cost charities millions of dollars each year to clean up.
The issue came to a head again when several armchairs and piles of clothing and household goods were strewn across the footpath outside the Salvos Store in Fyshwick over the long weekend in front of several large signs warning of $200 on-the-spot fines for dumping.
Salvos' area manager Tony O'Connell said the most recent dumping was one of the worst he'd seen and took seven volunteers several hours to take to landfill, with nothing able to be salvaged for resale.
He said it was a regular problem for the charity, despite bins being emptied every day. Its store at Belconnen was also often targeted by people dumping waste illegally or leaving donations outside after hours.
"What doesn't get trashed gets stolen," he said.
"The rangers are pretty flat out to cover all of Canberra… we're not out there trying to get people fined, but it makes it hard for us.
"If people can't make it through the week [to donate items], the guys will collect it from their carport."
Mr O'Connell said waste was also regularly dumped at the charity's Mitchell store, suggesting people were willing to drive to dispose of goods but reluctant to pay tip fees.
He was unsure how the problem could be improved, but believed a free kerbside collection service could be worth trialling, while more education was needed.
But Mr Rattenbury said most illegal dumping was not of bulky goods and introducing the "costly" kerbside service would mean rate increases or the abolition of other services.
"This type of system would mean those residents who don't utilise the service will cross-subsidise those who do," he said.
Instead he said there were already a range of services for bulky waste, including free drop-off for computers and TVs at both Mitchell and Mugga Lane.
Certain concession cardholders are able to access a free bulky waste pick-up service through the Green Shed's contract with the ACT government.
But other households unable to dispose of waste themselves must pay a minimum fee of about $88 for the pick-up service covering up to a cubic metre of waste with a 10 per cent discount for seniors, students and other concession cardholders.
Mr Rattenbury said rangers had noticed a reduction in illegal dumping since charity bins were consolidated last year under a new code of practice as there were fewer locations to monitor.
But further changes would be made if identified in a review expected later this year.
Capital Rubbish Removals manager Christine Law said when picking bulky goods the company aimed to minimise the amount of waste that ended up as landfill by sorting all waste and delivering reusable or resaleable items to the Green Shed.
"It's affordable and you can put your hand on your heart and feel comfortable that the waste is being dealt with responsibly," she said.
"If it has no resale value but can be recycled, like mattresses or metal, it's dropped at the appropriate recycling centre."