Hard rubbish confusion as council looks at changing the rules

Hard rubbish placed on the side of the road. Photo: Darebin City Council Facebook page.
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A theft charge for removing an item from a nature strip joins widespread confusion about what happens to Darebin's hard rubbish collection. Tim Bottams and Millicent Spencer report.

Members of the Darebin community are concerned about the procedure for hard rubbish collection after a man was charged with theft for removing an item from a nature strip in Preston.

A friend of the man, Tim Bouquet, said the charge was strange considering the council’s usual approach to hard rubbish in the area.

“It was not hard rubbish time but it’s not unusual for people to leave things on the nature strip regardless of whether it’s hard rubbish time or not,” he said on the Darebin Hard Rubbish Heroes (DHRH) Facebook page.

Darebin Council is considering a new model for hard rubbish removal, moving on from the current two annual collections where items are left on the street at designated times.

Darebin Cr Susan Rennie said until a new process was in place community members needed to take more responsibility for what happened to an item at the end of its life.

It would be “much better” if residents used other recycling methods such as donating to charity organisations or using Facebook groups like the DHRH to get rid of hard rubbish.

The DHRH—a community group focused on saving useable items and materials from landfill—was awarded the Sustainability Award in the 2020 Darebin Community Awards.

DHRH co-founder and admin, Jo Press, said she had received written confirmation from Darebin Council that residents would not receive fines if they followed council rules—people who took metals or left piles of rubbish in an unsafe manner could receive fines of about $300. 

The hard rubbish group was created in March 2020 and aimed to educate people about “what happens during hard waste time … [and] to help people realise that there is value in existing items”, Ms Press said.

A recent survey by the group revealed some members believed the hard rubbish collected by council was sent to Darebin’s Resource Recovery Centre.

“[Only] a very small percentage of people understood that items were crushed on the spot and sent to landfill,” Ms Press said.

“I think council’s got a responsibility to address that and look at ways of working on the culture that has evolved to think [like that].”

Hard rubbish confusion as council looks at changing the rules
Darebin Hard Rubbish Heroes founders Jackie Lewis (left) and Jo Press (right) receiving the Darebin Community Sustainability Award. Photo: Darebin Mayor Cr Lina Messina’s Facebook page.

Cr Rennie said items such as mattresses, tyres and metals were recycled, but most other goods were sent into landfill if not picked up by someone in the local community.

“I think there’s a misconception out there that a lot more of it gets recycled than actually is the case,” she said.

I’m not convinced that a service which enables people to just toss stuff out on the footpath leads to people sufficiently understanding the harm that is done by excessive consumption and thoughtless disposal of goods.

“Until there is a more formal model, we’re making it easier, hopefully, to find homes for things.”

Ms Press said the fact someone had been charged was bound to be disturbing for some people.

“But if they’re really that disturbed about it, then I guess they’d also do their own research to ensure they’re doing the right thing,” she said.

Cr Rennie said she is prepared to advocate for the man, however “without understanding the circumstance of this particular event it’s difficult to pass judgements on the actions of the police.”

Preston police were contacted several times but did not provide comment.

The Standard was unable to contact the neighbour who reported the incident.