Northern Grampians Shire Council has moved to crack down on the illegal dumping of materials at collection sites set up by various charitable agencies.
Council has adopted a new policy that exempts charities from paying waste and recycling fees. The policy was developed after a number of inadequacies or shortfalls were discovered in council's existing Waste Exemption Policy.
In discussing the new policy, councillors expressed their concern with the attitude of some ratepayers, who tend to use the collection sites as dumping grounds.
Cr Tony Driscoll the policy provided a more consistent approach to providing waste exemptions.
"I am very mindful that we as a council recognise the large amount of work that organisations such as the Salvation Army, Wimmera Uniting Care and St Vincent de Paul do in our communities," he said.
"At the same time, I want to reiterate to ratepayers in the community, that they cannot use these agencies as dumping grounds.
"These not for profit groups do tremendous work in our communities and this needs to be recognised."
Cr Karen Hyslop said the policy needed to be reviewed so it was made more clear.
"This is now a new policy and I am very pleased with it, as it gives a lot more clarity as to who can claim an exemption."
Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, said he shared the concerns of Cr Driscoll in relation to members of the community dumping their rubbish at collection sites for these agencies.
"We have tried to use stop-gap methods in the past and they didn't always work," he said.
"I certainly don't want to see these agencies used as dumping grounds, as we do recognise the great work they do."
Council's Environment Manager, Kathleen Gosden, said there were 46 charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission that are based in Stawell, St Arnaud and Halls Gap.
Ms Gosden pointed out that there are also many larger registered charities that have a substantial presence in the municipality such as St Vincent De Paul and the Salvation Army that are not included in the identified 46 as the main office location is not based in the municipality. However, these organisations may own property or provide services within the municipality.
"There are also many other registered charities that operate within the municipality several times a year that are not based in the municipality such as the Red Cross, which has a lesser presence," she said.
Ms Gosden said council officers received at least 20 requests annually from registered charities, not for profit organisations, community groups and individuals, seeking exemption from, or a reduction of, fees and charges for depositing of material at the transfer station.
The requests relate to either waste generated through the day to day operation of the organisation, or for waste accumulated during an event or from a community cleanup activity.
In one instance, Ms Gosden suggested the real cost for the management and disposal, processing or recycling of material from one of the smaller collection agencies in Stawell, was in the vicinity of $2325.
Ms Gosden said often members of the public may believe items to be of use to charities and leave them in the charity bins, but the organisation finds them to be superfluous to requirements, unable to be sold, damaged, or cannot be accepted due to Australian safety or health regulations. This was where problems occurred.
She said council officers had been working with a number of the registered charities operating 'opportunity shops' within the municipality to assist them with waste minimisation strategies such as only receiving donations when the business is open, so that donations can be refused if not suitable.
"This would also remove the legitimacy of materials dumped in the charity bins or designated receiving areas enabling the Environment Protection Act 1970 litter provisions to be enforced," Ms Gosden said.
"However, while these businesses continue to permit materials to be deposited on land or in charity bins outside the building outside of business hours it is difficult to enforce the Environment Protection Act 1970 litter provisions."
Ms Gosden said new measures to be put in place would require a change of practice and education of the general public.