New mum Louise was heading to her first day of work since having a baby when she was caught ‘dumping’ donations at a local Vinnies charity bin.
In more than a dozen photographs from two CCTV cameras, she is captured pulling up outside the Vinnies store in Bondi Beach before she leaves several bags on the footpath.
A close-up of the bins reveals a large number of items including clothing and boxes already piled up before Louise dropped off her unwanted goods.
Above them a sign reads, "littering is a fineable offence, these premises are monitored by cameras".
"I didn’t think much of it until I got the fine a couple of weeks later," Louise told Yahoo News Australia.
“They sent me a fine for $250 and also a bunch of photos of me from the CCTV, which my wife and I were p***ing ourselves over because they just made me look really suss.
“There were like six or seven photos of me getting in and out [of the car], one of me carrying the bags, one of me walking back without the bags, one of my number plate. It was just like, ok guys I get it.
“It’s pretty funny. We keep one on the side of the fridge.”
But for the new mum who was just trying to get organised, the penalty for the “illegal dumping of waste” was a kick in the guts.
“My wife is always saying, ‘you’ve got too much stuff, you’ve got to throw it away,’ so for me it was so hard to throw out this stuff and then I get this fine and I’m just like Goddammnit,” she explained.
“I’m not that bitter about it, it was one of those things where I got a fine and I went, yeh that was stupid.
“I was surprised with myself that I let my guard down and made the mistake of doing it. I’ve seen the signs, we’ve all seen them.”
'Do a good deed and get stung'
In sharing her story online, others came forward to admit they’d also been caught red-handed.
Fellow Sydneysider Sam told Yahoo News Australia that he and his partner were both slapped with $450 fines for leaving their items beside the same donation bin on Chambers Avenue.
“Seems crazy that the fine is so huge,” he said.
Another Facebook user recounted how their mother was slapped with a $500 fine after she and her vehicle were picked up on CCTV while dropping off donations.
“It seems absolutely predatory to put it [the camera] there to catch people who are genuinely just trying to help,” he said.
While some online showed sympathy for those who “try to do a good deed and get stung,” others had little empathy.
“You technically dumped it outside the bin,” one person said. “They have a huge problem with people dumping goods outside their store, let alone that.
Keeping donations out of landfill
Louise’s fine from the Sydney Regional Illegal Dumping Squad and Waverley Council states that $70,750 in fines have already been issued for illegal dumping at the Bondi Beach charity bin.
The document also includes a Tweet from the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
“NSW charities spent around $7 million last year cleaning up poor quality donations that could not be resold,” it read.
“That’s money that could be better spent on their frontline social welfare services
“Remember to only donate quality secondhand items and to leave them in bins and places provided to help them get recycled into a new home and kept out of landfill.”
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