High fines for illegal rubbish clearance by citizens is getting a lot of news coverage these days. With these stories in the ether, the opinion of the people who read these news stories seem to be varied on how they perceive these crack downs by local councils, council workers, council officers, and council courts.
Here’s a recent case in point. Ms. Hien Nguyen was fined a total of £2,566 for putting a bag of rubbish clearance in a recycle bin. This is equivalent to $3457.15 American dollars for American readers. At least three UK papers covered the story in November 2017: The Sun, The Daily Mail, and The Mirror.
Here Are the Facts As Reported By the Tabloids
Ms. Nguyen put a black bag of rubbish clearance into a recycle bin in Surrey. The items in the bag were not recyclable. It is not clear if she did so by mistake or if she did so intentionally. The row of recycle bins where she deposited the rubbish were located adjacent to a row of rubbish clearance bins, so it is at least conceivable, it was an honest mistake on her part.
A council worker went through her black bag and found an envelope with her name and address in the bag. They then started a legal process and Ms. Nguygen was sent a letter with a £80 fine issue by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. Ms. Nguygen did not respond to the letter or pay the fine.
Ms. Nguygen’s fine was increased to £1,500 for not having paid the original fine of £800 (equivalent to $1075.78 American dollars). Plus, she was required to pay the court costs of £916 and a “victim surcharge” of £150. This is how the total charge escalated to £2,566.
The council made the point that putting rubbish clearance in recycle bins is a form of fly tipping. Some people may argue this is a gray area, especially if done by mistake, but technically, if one follows the precise letter of the law, the council would be right to conclude that Ms. Nguygen’s actions falls within the legal definition of fly tipping.
The council also made the point that if rubbish clearance is added to recycle bins, the entire contents of those recycle bins may be rejected by recycling centres, and thus, the entire contents would be sent straight to a landfill.
What Do the People Think About the Original Fine and the Extra Fines?
It is apparent from the comments that people’s opinions on this matter vary widely. In some cases, people believe Ms. Nguyen should not have ignored the letter and should have paid the fine. Some people express that these fines are a good deterrent for dropping rubbish clearance into recycle bins. Some agree with the council’s position that this is a serious offense because we should be doing everything we can to keep rubbish out of landfills. They also emphasize that co-mingling recyclable material with rubbish fills up our landfills faster.
Other people have a softer view toward. Ms. Nyguyen. They believe she may have actually made an honest mistake. Some thought the council workers could have just put the bag in the right receptacle for her instead of spending more time searching through her rubbish. Some also point out that what Ms. Nyguyen did is “small potatoes” compared to large scale fly tippers who deposit entire lorry loads of rubbish clearance into roadsides, parks, and other areas. Some were angry that a citizen would be charged so much for one small bag of rubbish when fly tippers who dump much more get charged the same or less. One person likened what the court ruled in Ms. Nyguyen’s case as a “sledgehammer to crack a walnut.” Another person pointed out Ms. Nyguyen’s Vietnamese heritage and that in her home country rubbish clearance policies are very different. Perhaps this could explain her mistake?
What Do You Think About This Situation?
Do you think it was wrong to fine Ms. Nyguyen in the first place? Could a lesson have been learned without a fine? Should the fine have been less? Is there a need for more education on the proper way to dispose of rubbish clearance? Should there be more emphasis on going after bigger fly tipping criminals? Should fines be based on how much a flytipper tips? How should we accomplish this as a society?
At the very least, it appears we need to have a more thorough national discussion on these critical issues if we are to solve our landfill problems. Perhaps you can post your opinions on your social media accounts and share your thoughts with your friends and family and really get the discussion going. Please also share your views on Clearabee’s Facebook page and Twitter Feed. Clearabee is dedicated keeping rubbish clearance out of landfills and this type of discussion can only help us gain a better understanding of the hurdles to this. It can also help us think of better solutions or improve the solutions we already have in place.