App gives councils jump on illegal rubbish dumping


Local governments spend millions of dollars to tackle illegal dumping, with Victoria alone outlaying up to $30 million on clean-up costs last year.

Illegal dumping hotspots include vacant bush land, near charity donation bins and on residential streets. The most common illegally dumped waste includes tyres, large household items such as furniture and mattresses, and construction waste such as asbestos.

The company says the app is currently being trialled by “one of the largest councils in Australia”. At a test site set up outside a popular donation bin in the region, it captured 4856 visits over a three-month period. Of those, Gemineye identified 200 illegal dumping incidents.

SenSen Networks chief executive Subhash Challa said the wildlife photography cameras commonly used by councils were expensive and regularly needed batteries and SD cards to be changed manually as they were designed to record all motion at a site.

“Normally, a local council will only check the footage when residents file a complaint so they don’t know when exactly the illegal waste dumping activity actually happened, leaving them to go through the entire footage,” Dr Challa said.

Sen Sen CEO Subhash Challa

Sen Sen CEO Subhash Challa

Dr Challa claims his app can run unattended as the camera is housed inside a solar panel enclosure.

Jenni Downes, a senior research consultant at the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, said Gemineye’s ability to deliver real-time notifications could enable “real-time responses”, increasing the likelihood of catching offenders in the act.

“The data-tracking capabilities of the system are likely to be a step above current council systems of tracking incidents, many of which are manual,” she said.

“It offers real benefits to local and state government authorities, particularly if the system can integrate with, or allow recording of, incidents from other sources to enable comprehensive data capture.”

Ms Downes said with quality data on the number and nature of incidents, councils would be able to make better business cases for investing in prevention and enforcement of illegal waste dumping.

But she noted a key to the system’s effectiveness would be how visible or secure its cameras were.

“Highly visible cameras, which aim to increase perceptions of surveillance and therefore act as deterrence as well as enforcement, are often subject to vandalism or theft, proving expensive to repair or replace,” she said.

Ms Downes said a number of councils were finding that creatively concealed cameras proved more effective in enabling prosecution of offences and minimising camera theft.

According to Dr Challa, the solar panel enclosure that the app’s camera resides in is designed to look like a regular junction box that mimics those found on residential streets, effectively concealing it in plain sight. Built-in GPS allows the camera to be tracked if it is removed by vandals.

Ms Downes notes, however, that the use of a covert camera would need to “conform with applicable privacy and surveillance device legislation”.

Krishan is a multi-award-winning Australian technology journalist.

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