A woman who dumped a bag of garden cuttings in a field in South Tyneside says she is shocked to have been fined £400.
Call centre worker Melissa Hayes, 30, has been ordered to pay the sizeable sum after being spotted tipping the contents of a single black refuge sack onto grassland at Cleadon Hills.
The day after her environmental rules breach, a letter from South Tyneside Council warned that her car had been spotted at the scene – and demanded she cough up.
She claims she was summoned to an interview with council chiefs and - although she admits her actions were wrong and has vowed to never repeat them - she has slammed the size of the fixed penalty notice.
She has been told it can be reduced to £150 if paid within 14 days – a sum she insists she will still struggle to find.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council says it hopes her case will act as a deterrent.
Ms Hayes, who lives with her mum at Green Hill Walk, near Quarry Lane, South Shields, said: “I was wrong to do it and I admitted that but the truth is that, at the time, I didn’t really think there was anything wrong with what I was doing.
“I’d been tidying the garden and cutting the grass and it seemed to me that I was just putting natural waste into a natural environment.
“I’d been to the council’s tip before and had to queue, so I thought ‘why not just put it in all the high nettles?”
She added: “The area where I put the waste is just long grassland and full of nettles. It is ignored by the council and just left to grow.
“It wasn’t like I was dumping a settee or anything like that, and I even brought the bag home with me.
“I think the fine is out of all proportion and I really don’t know how I’m going to pay it. I made a mistake and I’m sorry and I won’t do it again, but the fine is far too much.”
Ms Hayes drove her white Nissan Micra car to Valley Lane, which is only around 150m from her home, with her boyfriend on Sunday, July 30.
She believes her actions were witnessed by a passer-by, who recorded her vehicle registration number and took photos of the waste.
The council spokeswoman said flytipping of any kind was an offence.
She added: “Such offences are dealt with by way of Fixed Penalty Notices or prosecution through the courts, which can result in a criminal conviction as well as fines of up to £50,000 and/or six months in prison.
“Flytipping is not only illegal, it is a huge drain on our extremely stretched resources with the cost of cleaning up and investigating these offences placing an additional burden on taxpayers.
“We take instances of flytipping extremely seriously and will take action against anyone we can identify as being responsible.
“We hope that cases such as this act as a deterrent to anyone else considering dumping their waste illegally.”
Flytipping can be reported by calling 427 7000, text 07786 200 802 or via the council’s website.