Leave your sofa somewhere else. Simple as that because illegal waste disposal is not cool. No matter how you put it, no matter how public the container is, it’s not cool. So just leave your sofa somewhere else, this is a cemetery.
I support the idea of a clean city, and since day one, when I started my business to help companies and public institutions fight illegal dumpsters, spot crimes and degradation, I’ve heard stories like these quite often. This one in particular comes from Tukums, an amazing city in Latvia, where domestic waste in the public waste disposal containers near the cemetery was an ordinary practice. Instead of the cemetery waste which was the container’s main goal it was constantly filled up with food waste, old clothes and even furniture from the surrounding living areas. The city reported 85 000 EUR in annual expenses of collecting garbage with ⅓ of it being illegal disposal which meant that roughly 28 000 EUR of the tax money were lost and could not be used elsewhere.
The fear of being caught
As the previous activities to decrease the level of illegal dumping did not succeed, we, together with the city, decided to fight the issue the drastic way by installing the mobile video surveillance system or MVSS. It turned out it was not the overspent tax money that could change the people’s habits. It was the fear of being caught that made them leave their sofa somewhere else.
The idea to put one’s reputation under radar paid off. The number of waste collections dropped down, and the money was saved. The presence of the camera was so successful that it became a foundation of word-of-mouth marketing where the people from the surrounding areas warned others not to use the containers and change their habits. In fact, it was a multi-collaboration among the closest neighborhoods that resulted in a cleaner and safer environment. Can we say the fear can actually bring a positive impact on educating people and making the city a better place? I believe so.
Mobile video surveillance system – something to look after?
However, the takeaway from this story is rougher than expected. Regardless the potential positive outcome, it does not really eliminate the problem of illegal dumpsters. If there are a portion of people who realize their wrong-doings and improve their surroundings, there’s also a portion who has not. People learn to adjust. They relocate, and new illegal waste dumping spots appear elsewhere. Thus, the cities have to adjust too.
Can mobile video surveillance cameras be this adjustment that ensures the clean city concept? Our experiment does not give one concrete answer, although it is clear it is something to look after. In today’s world the need of an ideal panacea to build a sustainable and beautiful urban city will only grow, and such solution will demand an integral view at everything, including an understanding of the human behaviour, ability to learn and predict, and doing the recording job properly. Are we ready for that?
In the meantime, leave your sofa somewhere else. You are noticed!