Illegal dumping has become a chronic problem during the Pandemic
Angry local councillors in Offaly are fed up with the massive amount of illegal dumping and fly tipping taking place in our countryside and are demanding higher fines for the offenders.
Every councillor during the monthly meeting of Birr Municipal District said the level of dumping was appalling and sterner action needs to be taken.
They pointed out that the current fines are not enough of a deterrent to offenders and need to be significantly raised.
Cllr Eamon Dooley said the nub of the problem is that offenders are being prosecuted under the Litter Pollution Act when they should instead be prosecuted under the Waste Management Act. Under the former people cannot be fined any more than €150. Under the latter there's a maximum fine of €5,000.
Cllr Dooley said throwing a sweet wrapper out of your car window is fly tipping and therefore should be prosecuted under the Litter Act, “but sometimes the Litter Act is being applied to two or three black sacks of domestic refuse dumped in a drain. This is wrong. If you dump two or three large black bags of refuse in the countryside then you should be prosecuted under the Waste Act.”
A staff member from the Environment section of the County Council, Mary Hussey, told the meeting that her section has posted 540 letters to Council tenants in housing estates asking them to inform the Council how they are disposing of their waste, either by a reputable bin collection company or by using the Civic Amenity / Recycling Centres. The Councillors welcomed this action. They have long wanted the Council to ask tenants what means they are using to dispose of their waste.
Mary Hussey said the Council is very conscious of the fly tipping and illegal dumping issue, a problem which, she said, has become “horrendous”.
She said the majority of people in communities are very civic minded and dispose of their waste appropriately. “An Taisce has been supplying bags and pickers to communities and there has been a great response from communities, which is heartening to see.”
Cllr Peter Ormond praised the Environment Section for their hard and invaluable work with communities during Spring Cleaning Week.
Cllr Ormond pointed out that the challenge of combatting litter and waste has never been greater. “During the last twelve months we have seen a huge increase in illegal dumping and fly tipping. I think there's a lot of people who don't have a bin and are not using the Recycling Centres. Therefore, I welcome the 540 letters because it might go some way to tackling this problem. And I know of people who have refuse bins outside their houses but are not using them and are dumping illegally. We therefore have to ensure that they are in fact using those bins, that they are in fact being collected by bin collection companies. On my road there has been illegal dumping on three occasions by the same person. It's shocking behaviour.
“I think the fines are too low. We need to be taking these people to court. And we should add 5 or 6 Euros to tenants' rent to pay for the cost to the Council of having to clean up this rubbish. The softly-softly approach is not working. We need get more direct.
“I find it hard to stomach that after two decades of Green Flag campaigns in our schools, after two decades of educating our children about our environment and proper waste disposal, that some of those children, when they become adults, are behaving in this manner. We are not seeing the fruits of all that educational work that we wanted to see.
“We also have the situation where children are being educated about proper rubbish disposal while their parents are going out at night with carloads of stuff and discarding it in the countryside.”
“As I drive around the countryside,” commented Cllr Dooley, “the high number of refuse bags thrown in drains and fields and bogs is very noticeable. I look on this matter as not only being unsightly but also as being prejudicial to public health; for that reason alone it should come under the Waste Management Act not the milder Litter Pollution Act.”
Cllr John Clendennen pointed out that while the world has been labouring under the terrible effects of the Pandemic we have also seen an outburst of a “contagion of selfishness” in people's behaviour, who have shown by their indiscriminate littering that “they have no consideration for the beauty of our countryside. They have displayed the very height of selfishness. It is disgusting behaviour.” The councillor also spoke about “face masks hanging from trees” and “dog bags dripping with dog poo hanging from branches.” He added that the only way to tackle the problem is “to hit people hard in the pocket. And we need bye laws to bring that about.” Mary Hussey said she wasn't sure if bye laws are an option and she promised to revert to the councillors regarding that.
Cllr Clendennen also praised the Council for taking a more proactive approach and raising the amount of fines. “In 2016 the Council issued three litter fines; in 2017 there were 43 fines; and in 2018 there were 239.” He added that the Council is receiving about a thousand litter and dumping complaints each year.
Cllr Leahy said it was positive to hear that the Council had sent out 540 letters to residents. He also urged community groups to avail of the litter pickers and bags from An Taisce. He suggested that there should be a conversation with the multinationals. “There's a lot of plastic packaging of supermarket goods which is not biodegradable. This, of course, is a massive problem. All the packaging should be biodegradable.”
He agreed that higher fines for illegal dumping are needed, and repeat offenders should be fined even higher.
“Once Covid comes to an end we will back publicising and promoting our beautiful county in the hope of attracting visitors to it. We don't need this littering and dumping problem. It creates an awful image and a bad mood among visitors.”
Mary Hussey commented that the nub of the problem is a lack of respect for our countryside amongst some members of the public.
“It does seem that there is a worrying disconnect in some people's minds from their environment and they don't have the appropriate respect for our countryside. We have quite a bit of work to do to change mindsets. Quite a bit of education is needed.”
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