Frustrated council staff are resorting to stakeouts to catch inner-city rubbish dumpers going to extremes to avoid the $2.50 cost of a rubbish bag.
For the past year, the Wellington City Council has been running a programme to stop rubbish being illegally dumped on central city footpaths, as both companies and residents leave rubbish in unmarked bags.
By doing so, they avoid the $2.50 cost of an official council bag - but ratepayers are being left to pick up the bill.
Waste operations manager Adrian Mitchell estimated the council was spending $1200 a week in staff time to try to fight the problem.
That's on top of about $60,000 a year in landfill fees to dispose of the extra rubbish, plus about $80,000 in lost revenue from people not paying for bags.
"People forget that when they do this it's their next-door neighbour that ends up paying for it," Mitchell said.
The council had to get rid of the rubbish to keep the streets tidy, and people knew that, but catching the dumpers was proving to be a challenge, as city dwellers were going to some lengths to avoid detection.
"We're between a rock and a hard place because we have got to get it off the street."
Among tactics being used are cutting away all names and addresses from envelopes so their origin cannot be identified, and dumping rubbish up to 100 metres away from the home or office.
Some cleaning companies are also leaving rubbish behind, and the council has had to call some "well-known" companies to warn them that potentially confidential documents are being dumped.
The council programme included contacting those companies and asking them to address the matter with their cleaning companies, Mitchell said.
Where offenders were identified they would be warned, and if they continued to offend they could be fined up to $400. But identification was the biggest challenge. City-wide in the past financial year, there were 11 fines issued and 14 warning letters.
"If they're that committed to making somebody else pay for their rubbish disposal, it's a little bit hard to police."
Mitchell said staff would search through rubbish to find identifying documents and, in extreme cases, had resorted to stakeouts - marking when and where dumping was regularly occurring then catching the culprits and giving out warnings.
The programme had made inroads to the problem, he said.
About 2000 tonnes of rubbish was sent to the landfill from the CBD each year, and that had been reduced by about 20 per cent, which Mitchell said was nearly all because of targeting dumpers.
Inner City Association president Geraldine Murphy welcomed the council's work and said it was a regular problem, with dumped rubbish piling up and torn bags sending rubbish down the streets.
Apartment blocks should be looking at refuse disposal rooms to keep rubbish off the streets, and people also had to report dumping to help council combat the problem, she said.
- The Dominion Post