Issuing fixed penalty notices to residents who persistently contaminate their recycling bins will not deter them from doing it and other deterrents need to be used, according to an Exeter City Council official.
Speaking to MRW Exeter City Council head of waste management Mike Trim said: We may give options to residents to say that if you have had four or five warnings and had an education officer visit we will give them time to clear out their contaminated bins themselves. We will then empty it free of charge. If they do not empty it we will charge them a fee, like we do our special bulky collections, of £10 to take the waste away.
The city has 50,000 properties and each resident is given a green bin to put their dry recyclables in. Trim said that issuing fixed penalty notices to residents wont work as proven in a high profile case the council lost in 2006.
The case concerned Donna Challice, a 32-year old, single-mother of three, who was taken to court for allegedly putting takeaway leftovers, dog excrement and cigarette ends in her green bin. She was given 14 warnings over an 18-month period to clear her bins. But she was found not guilty after the court ruled that the council had been unable to prove that she put the waste into the bin herself. Trim said she chose to remain silent throughout the case.
Trim stressed that persistent offenders were in the minority but said: You can issue a fixed penalty notice and some will say yes and pay the money. But some will say no and you will either have to write it off or take them to court. When you get to court it is difficult to prove unless you have an eye-witness who has seen people contaminate their waste.
With our dog wardens, who witness people with dogs who foul, we have never lost a case.
He also said that residents who contaminate their waste should not face criminal prosecution but civil prosecution. If it was a civil offence then you wouldnt have to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt but by balance of probabilities. And you wouldnt have to take a student to court and have him or her get a criminal record for life, he said.
He said that councils may have to install portable CCTV cameras in the worst areas where they experience fly-tipping problems.
This area of waste is a minefield and if I was somebody new going into waste management now then I would need a degree in rocket science its getting so complex.