Offaly ramp up illegal dumping crackdown with three-year plan extension
Offaly County Council has decided to extend its litter management plan by three years to 2021 after a dramatic increase in complaints and fines as a result of illegal dumping in the county since 2016.
The issue came before the April meeting of Offaly County Council where Caroline Clancy from the Environment and Water section of the local authority gave a presentation on the results of the litter management plan since its inception in 2016.
The tackling of fly-tipping and illegal dumping by OCC in that time has increased dramatically with fines issued jumping from just three in 2016 to 43 in 2017 and 239 in 2017. Seven fines have already been issued to offenders in 2019.
The prevalence of illegal dumping would appear to have also increased in that time with the number of complaints made to the council about the practice rising each year since 2016. The council received 685 complaints in that year, 749 in 2017 and 884 in 2018. The local authority has already received 349 complaints in 2019.
The plan has also seen an increase in the number of clean-ups around the county with 91 taking place to date, including a large-scale event in conjunction with Tullamore Tidy Towns last weekend. Another council-led clean-up cleared 15 tonnes of rubbish from a site near Kilcormac recently.
It was also revealed that Offaly County Council has utilised CCTV cameras at "strategic locations," namely carparks containing bottle banks.
Responding to the litter plan, Cllr Declan Harvey suggested "we need more bins and cameras" while he asked the environment section to focus on the back lanes of Tullamore for future clean-ups. Environment staff suggested the locations "doing well in the National Tidy Towns competitions have very few bins," adding that the bins there are in an area, the more littering offences there are.
Cllr Noel Cribbin also called for an extension of the CCTV network and suggested the use of "fat belly bins similar to those used in Portlaoise" to be piloted in Edenderry. He also said, "we should name and shame people."
The litter management plan's annual report also noted the usefulness of CCTV cameras but tempered that with the "problematic" nature of installing cameras at remote locations where most illegal dumping is taking place. "Dumping at these sites often happens outside daylight hours and this can be difficult to capture clearly on camera. Another issue is the availability of electricity as well as the expense of having a camera installed on a medium to long term basis," the report said.
Cllr Ormond asked if "we have looked at signage or link-ups with local retailers to encourage people to bring their rubbish home." He also suggested the council should be bringing more people to court rather than simply issuing fines. Cllr John Leahy echoed these calls and blasted the recent find of 15 tonnes of rubbish in Kilcormac, a matter of metres from Offaly's biggest tourists products, Lough Boora Parklands.
"It's not the people of Kilcormac doing this dumping; it's people in vans on country roads at night. In this particular find, severe action needs to be taken as it's so close to Lough Boora, one of our main tourist spots. You wouldn't see it in Kerry or Clare."
Cllr Alan Davy also suggested a push on businesses to introduce schemes similar to bottle recycling vending machines in shops. He said these machines see people given store credit or a small cash sum for bringing empty plastic bottles to recycle them.
Cllr Eamon Dooley said OCC should be dealing with large-scale dumping under the Waste Act and not the less stringent Litter Act. He also suggested a discussion with Bord na Mona with a view to counteracting dumping around disused and remote bogs where a lot of dumping occurs.
In response, environment staff said they would look into contacting businesses in this regard but in relation to court actions, they said, "each case is taken on its merits but we couldn't take the hundreds of dumpers caught to court because of the excessive cost," noting that "fines are there for that reason."
Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick asked for surveys of houses to find out where and how people are disposing of their rubbish. Environment staff confirmed that new bylaws adopted late last year gives them the power to call to a house and ask for evidence as to how people are getting rid of their rubbish.
A number of councillors also praised the work being doing by environment staff within OCC, including Cllr Sean Maher who said, "it's great to see the work being doing in schools and hopefully we see the result of that in the coming years." Cllr John Clendennen said, "we all have a responsibility here and while it's great to see the schools progress, it's the adults that need we need to be educating."
Those sentiments were echoed by Cllr Dervill Dolan who suggested "the children will be educating us," given the "brilliant work being done with schools." He too paid tribute to the environment staff on the work carried out under the litter plan to date.
The three-year extension to the litter plan was proposed by Cllr Eddie Fitzpatrick and seconded by Cllr John Clendennen.