Illegal dumping laws and penalties

What is illegal dumping under the law? What are the penalties for those who are caught?

The EPA enforces strict laws relating to illegal dumping to ensure wrongdoers pay heavy penalties for potentially harming human health and the environment, and deter dumpers from repeating the offence.

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) is the primary piece of environmental legislation regulating illegal dumping in NSW. The POEO Act provides a tiered range of on-the-spot fines and penalties for illegal dumping offences. Two of the sections commonly used by the EPA to regulate illegal dumping are sections 143 and 144 of the POEO Act.

What is ‘illegal dumping’ according to the law?

Sections 143 and 144 of the POEO Act

  • deal with the unlawful transporting, acceptance and depositing of waste
  • state that the owner, transporter and person receiving the waste or allowing their waste to be received are committing a crime

Note that if the waste dumped is causing land or water pollution, this is also an offence: there is a fine of S120 for water pollution.

Fines and penalties

On-the-spot fines for illegal dumping

  • $7500 on-the-spot fine for individuals, if issued by the EPA ($4000 otherwise)
  • $15,000 on-the-spot fine for corporations, if issued by the EPA ($8000 otherwise)

Strict liability waste dumping offences

  • Maximum penalty for an individual: $250,000 and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further daily penalty of $60,000
  • Maximum penalty for a corporation: $1,000,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, a further daily penalty of $120,000

Wilful or negligent disposal of waste causing actual or likely harm to the environment

  • Maximum penalty for an individual: $1,000,000 and/or 7-year prison sentence for wilful offences; $500,000 and/or 4-year prison sentence for negligent offences
  • Maximum penalty for a corporation: $5,000,000 for wilful offences; $2,000,000 for negligent offences

Increased penalties

Recent amendments to the POEO Act have increased penalties for illegal dumping including

  • vehicles used in repeat illegal dumping offences can be seized, and if the offender is convicted, can be forfeited
  • repeat offenders can receive prison sentences of up to 2 years
  • the EPA can require waste transporters to install GPS devices in their vehicles, so the EPA can monitor their movements and ensure they comply with the law
  • a person knowingly supplying false and misleading information in the course of dealing with waste can receive a fine of up to $500,000 for a corporation, or $240,000 and an 18-month prison sentence for an individual
  • the offender can be required to repay any monetary benefit obtained as a result of the offence as an additional penalty.
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