Damning photo highlights dark side of festive period

Dumping at donation bins has been a problem in Australia for years, but the Christmas period only makes it worse.

For many families this summer holidays, it's out with the old and in with the new. Making space for all the Christmas gifts can often lead to a big clear out. But where does it all go?

One damning photo taken this week of a mass of items dumped next to donation bins in Melbourne's northeast highlights a seasonal trend that is only worsening the crisis facing charities and the recycling industry.

"It's certainly an issue impacting our entire sector during this holiday period," Alexis Todorovski, executive at clothing recycling business SCRgroup, told Yahoo News Australia.

"This time of year, we experience an increase in collections, which is great to see Australians wanting to reuse and recycle their preloved items, but we also see a lot more illegal dumping."

Two Melbourne donation bins surrounded by items.
The dire situation at the donation bins is an all too common occurrence across Australia. Source: Supplied

SCRgroup, which is responsible for the bins pictured, operates primarily in Victoria where Ms Todorovski said local councils can fork out up to $3million a year to tackle the problem.

Melbourne resident Dave took the photo of the donation bins and told Yahoo News Australia he was disappointed to see the giant pile of donations scattered in the car park in Chirnside Park.

"It's frustrating to see when there's something for the good of mankind but then it's not being utilised correctly," he said. "When the clothes are piling up at the bins, it's a situation nobody wants."

Dave believes people are doing what they are told is the right thing yet "somebody else isn't doing the other part of the job". He pointed to the collapse of soft plastic recycling scheme Redcycle as a company that operated beyond its means.

And while Ms Todorovski agrees the majority of people have the right intentions, he says an increase in dumping at donation sites can be influenced by a range of factors.

"There are a few variables that could be contributing to people knowingly doing the wrong thing, such as increase cost of living and increased landfill costs as well as inefficient kerbside or home pickup services provided by Council," she said.

"We see higher rates of illegal dumping in Councils that don't appear to have sufficient services."

What is being done to solve the problem?

SCRgroup has been working hard to reduce dumping at donation sites, reminding those who use the service that leaving items outside of the bins is illegal and can incur heavy fines up to $5000.

Earlier this year, Yahoo reported several fines issued in the Sydney area to dismayed residents who say they were merely trying to help when leaving items outside charity shops.

Ms Todorovski notes the particular site pictured is serviced almost daily and the company regularly acts when such sights are directly reported.

Other deterrents used are signs warning the site is being monitored by CCTV, while Oxford University research has led to the introduction of a cartoon security guard named Alfonzo, whose large eyes discourage those dumping.

Alfonzo has been a huge success during trials. Source: SCRgroup
Alfonzo has been a huge success during trials. Source: SCRgroup

"Trials (using Alfonzo) were conducted in the City of Whittlesea and over a four week period, with SCRgroup seeing a decrease of 75 per cent (in dumping)," Ms Todorovski said.

He said if users experience full bins at one of their locations, they can call SCRgroup's 24-hour hotline or they can visit Planet Ark's online directory for their nearest services.

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