Litter, we need to talk: Litter Enforcement Officer Network

An inconsistent approach to illegal dumping is driving a rethink from the Litter Enforcement Officer Network, which represents land managers and councils.

Cleaning up illegally dumped material in Melbourne costs around $18.8 million a year, according to a Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group survey.

When combined with the total cost of litter and street sweeping maintenance for local governments in Victoria, that figure rises to almost $100 million.

In addition to the hefty cost of cleaning up after rogue players, illegal dumping and litter is a burden on the community. The Litter Enforcement Officer Network (LEON) Annual Report 2019 shows 89 per cent of community members are concerned with illegal dumping and 80 per cent about litter.

Samuel Lawson, Research and Project Coordinator at Keep Victoria Beautiful (KVB) says Victorians are fed up with dumped rubbish and litter. To that end, he says residents are after tangible enforcement options.

“There’s a misalignment with what Victorians want and the way that some organisations treat enforcement. The amenity and safety that enforcement officers bring is valued highly by Victorians, but can be missed by some organisations,” Samuel says.

In 2014, two enforcement officers decided to raise the technical capacity of officers. With a goal of highlighting the value of dedicated local council officers, they formed LEON.

LEON has a vision to see land managers take unified action on litter and illegal dumping prevention and enforcement. It brings together authorised officers, land managers and anyone concerned with enforcement.

By contributing to the development of resources like the enforcement toolkits, LEON has gone from strength to strength. Last year, the board of KVB agreed to oversee its accountability.

KVB’s network as a statewide organisation allows it to leverage its links with a range of land managers, including the likes of Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and the Department of Transport.

According to Samuel, as the issues of litter and illegal dumping evolve, land managers have been compelled to change their approach to these issues regularly. This, he says, has led to an inconsistent approach and outcomes.

In 2019, KVB conducted extensive member feedback from February to December 2019. LEON members got together at Waste Expo Australia, receiving scenario-based training and expert support from the EPA. In doing so, LEON grew to 240 members and now represents 80 organisations in Victoria.

“We spent last year listening to our members and what they said to us unanimously is that they need resources and training,” Sam says.

In addressing this, LEON is this year focused on reducing litter and illegal dumping by upskilling officers, promoting best practice and encouraging strong working relationships with land managers. Furthermore, it will also offer a number of training courses on enforcement and prosecution.

Samuel says that one of the benefits of the training courses will be a standardised approach.

“If all councils and land managers respond to illegal dumping in the same way, it reduces costs to the land manager and anyone living around incidents, and ideally reduces illegal dumping through awareness as well.”

He says the impact will hopefully be magnified when combined with EPA enforcement toolkits, adding that LEON has been working with EPA since its inception.

LEON members are currently participating in the new 2020 Waste and Litter Toolkit which will support the rollout of the Environment Protection Amendment
Act 2018.

It has held workshops with the EPA and members to inform the development of the toolkit.

This year LEON is also producing training courses and resources that support the 2020 Waste and Litter Toolkit. This includes a prosecution training course which will benefit authorised officers exposed to the prosecution process, as well as prosecutors seeking to increase their abilities prosecuting waste.

Samuel says that LEON is also working on an enforcement training course. He says this will benefit enforcement officers and anyone involved in enforcement who should have a clear understanding of the powers of an authorised officer.

Throughout the year, LEON will continue to hold free member forums around Victoria. Members will come together to network, hear from experts and receive basic scenario-based training.

While Samuel says ultimately it’s unlikely we’ll ever eliminate litter, with better practice and training, along with more resources, the issue won’t be as painful on the bottom line.

“Every local government should join the network to access the benefits offered and participate in a statewide enforcement conversation.

“We hope that you become a member of LEON and together help us Keep Victoria Beautiful,” he says.

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