RATEPAYERS between Lake Macquarie and Coffs Harbour are contributing thousands of dollars to remove mattresses dumped along the Pacific Highway.
Truckloads of used mattresses have been found in bush near the highway in recent weeks.
About 70 mattresses at Hagans Lane, near the Tea Gardens turn-off, came to the attention of Great Lakes Council last Sunday.
Some of the mattresses were set alight the following evening.
A similar number have been found at Raymond Terrace and Taree.
‘‘It’s obviously commercial dumping,’’ Great Lakes Council waste, health and regulatory services manager John Cavanagh said.
‘‘We have contacted the transport companies and mattress retailers to try and trace the source.’’
A mattress collection contractor is suspected of illegally disposing of the mattresses rather than paying to have them recycled.
The recent incidents follow a Newcastle Herald report in March that said mattress dumping was a major problem in the Lower Hunter.
Mr Cavanagh said ratepayers would ultimately bear the cost of removing the mattresses.
‘‘Unfortunately, it’s money that could be better spent elsewhere,’’ he said.
The maximum penalties that could be imposed by a court for large-scale mattress dumping was $1 million for a company and $250,000 for an individual.
An Environment Protection Authority spokesman said hazards associated with mattress dumping were similar to those associated with other household goods.
‘‘However, such dumping can create risks such as a risk of fire, providing habitat for pests and vermin, damage to native vegetation or habitat,’’ he said.
‘‘Such dumping also creates the risk of more dumping in the same area.’’