LOCAL authorities are fighting a surge of illegal dumping attributed to recession-hit households trying to get around paying refuse charges.

New figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency show that since its establishment in 2006, a confidential hotline on dumping has received nearly 5,600 calls. Half of all calls relate to fly tipping, or the dumping of less than 20 bags of rubbish.

The vast majority of reports (1,426) relate to the Dublin area followed by Wicklow (1,167) and then Cork.

Dublin City Council estimates that it is losing hundreds of thousands of euro a year from illegal dumping due to the non-payment of refuse charges.

"As with anything there are people who are abusing that system; hundreds of bags every week are just being dumped on the street without tags," said Hugh Coughlan, an administrative officer at the council.

"You hear anecdotally that people would go to those areas to dump their bags. It's amazing the lengths people will go to."

The situation in the area governed by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council is similar. A council spokesman said: "Evidence gathered to date points to the recession as the cause of this increase, as reduced incomes and loss of employment has resulted in households seeking any means to reduce their outlays, including waste charges."

Fingal County Council has noticed an increase in complaints too, growing from 149 in 2008 to 195 in 2009 and 135 already this year.

A spokesman at South Dublin County Council said it had not noticed any significant increase but added that, with mountains in its catchment area, "there have always been black spots in the county".