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Illegal, unsafe dumping at Gungahlin recycling centre shocks locals

Damien Larkins23 June 2021
Carboard spills out from the collection cage at Gungahlin Recycling Drop-off Centre

Locals discovered the recycling centre in a mess on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Photo: Stephen Gray.

Locals have been left dismayed by an illegally and unsafely dumped mess at the Gungahlin Recycling Drop-off Centre at the long weekend.

Discarded boxes were spilling from the cardboard collection cage, inside which inappropriate materials had been dumped such as polystyrene packaging, rubber sandals, plastic toys and even a sink.

Gungahlin local Stephen Gray came across the mess while he and his son were dropping off some boxes on the Queen’s Birthday public holiday Monday.

“[I was] not expecting it to be in this much mess with illegal dumping in the compound,” he told Region Media.

“The people there were all shaking their heads and couldn’t believe it either.”


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He put photos on social media, where they drew a storm of negative responses.

“Lots of comments and over 150 dislikes, people not happy,” he says.

“You couldn’t open any of the gates as the boxes that hadn’t been flattened where leaning up against every gate nearly.”

A plastic sink in the cardboard cage at Gungahlin Recycling Drop-off Centre

The illegally dumped items included a sink.

It’s not just an inconvenience when people illegally or improperly dump waste items.

The entire contaminated load may not be able to be recycled, or worse could become danger to other users and to processing facility workers.

Around 125 tonnes a day of recycled materials is collected in Canberra, that’s four B-double trailer loads.

But illegally and improperly dumped items can be dangerous.

ACT No Waste education team leader Robbie Ladbrook says in 2019 an old bicycle inside a television box was put in with the cardboard and taken to a processing facility in NSW.

“A paper box gets shredded up and pulped up,” she said.

“They got a nasty surprise when inside that there was an aluminium frame bicycle.”

ACT No Waste education team leader Robbie Ladbrook

ACT No Waste’s Robbie Ladbrook says recycling users and staff deserve a safe workplace. Photo: Damien Larkins.

Luckily no-one was injured by flying shrapnel, but the shredding machine was shut down for repair, a costly loss of production.

“A couple of hours shutdown is quite critical,” she said.

“They deserve to work in a safe workplace without any hazards.”

Ms Ladbrook says they receive regular complaints from the public.

“They really feel upset when other people’s contamination, when they haven’t taken the care, undermine their efforts,” she said.

“If you’ve gone to the effort to do the right thing, you don’t like to see other people doing the wrong thing.”

A padlock on the Gungahlin Recycling Centre cardboard cage

Though not staffed, the centre has CCTV security and fines apply for illegal dumping. Photo: Damien Larkins.

The free, 24-hour centres are designed for items that won’t fit in home recycling bins – like large boxes or if you’ve simply got too much.

Ms Ladbrook says it’s important to keep them safe for users and for staff.

“We’re not leaving things outside the cages where they’re meant to be deposited and that we’re putting the right things in them,” she said.


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Though the sites aren’t staffed, they are monitored by CCTV round the clock and regularly inspected.

You can be fined up to $7,500 for illegal dumping.

“We do encourage the community to report illegal dumping when they see it anywhere in Canberra,” Ms Ladbrook says.

“As the education team we want to make sure that people are aware of how to use the facility correctly and the consequences of incorrect use.

“For safety of staff and visitors, the contamination of the product which puts the recycling of it in jeopardy and the consequences of illegal activity which might be enforcement through fines.”

The ACT Government’s Recyclopedia has a guide to what you can and can’t dump.

If you do witness illegal dumping, you can report it to Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

Original Article published by Damien Larkins on The RiotACT.

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