Dumping: ‘Green fields will disappear under mountains of discarded rubbish’

The problem of illegal dumping “is not confined to our remote, beautiful countryside; although the problem there is at its worst”, according to Kildare South Senator Mark Wall.

Addressing Minister Eamon Ryan in the Seanad yesterday (Monday, February 1), the senator said that “notwithstanding the dreadful pandemic that our country continues to face, one issue continues to dominate the work of public representatives”.

‘Environmental vandalism’

“One positive outcome of this lockdown has been the number of our citizens who are out walking and exercising within the 5km limit that is in place,” the senator said.

However, this increase in those walking our streets and country roads has led to the realisation of what we, as a nation, are doing to our environment.

“What people are seeing in greater numbers is simply environmental vandalism. Our main roads resemble advertising dumping grounds; as discarded packets, cups and boxes fight with one another for the little spots available on these roads and are constantly blown about in the wind.

“Our country lanes are now extensions of our landfill sites, such is the amount of rubbish being illegally deposited there.

“Our farming community is constantly having to remove piled up rubbish from headlands, entrances and fields. Rubbish is just flung over ditches by those passing in vans or cars.”

‘Disappear under mountains of discarded rubbish’

The senator said that if Ireland is to continue to “sell this country as a beautiful, unspoilt island with 40 shades of green and landscapes to die for”, something needs to be done.

We have to intervene – as those green fields; those important city streets; our beautiful hills; those quaint country lanes; not to mention our precious bogland; will disappear under mountains of discarded fridges, sofas, tyres and household rubbish.

“These are all illegally dumped by those who consider themselves above the law and, for some bizarre reason, untouchable because they gave a person driving a van or a car a few bob to get rid of it.”

‘Local authorities need the department’s help’

He said that Kildare County Council is “dealing with 40 to 50 incidents each week and is spending more than €3 million per year on mitigating matters”.

“If this is replicated across our 31 local authorities, it means that approximately €90 million will be spent on this problem,” the senator continued.

“This does not include the additional money the department may have allocated and does not include the time and effort of the many volunteers who do their best to clean up after this unacceptable behaviour.

Local authorities need the department’s help. They are all in agreement that a national campaign must come with enforcement.

“This problem is now so serious that I and others are looking at these data protection issues and, if legislation is needed, we will bring it forward.”

Funding allocated in 2020

Minister Eamon Ryan said that in 2020, €7.6 million was allocated by his department to local authorities under the annual local authority waste enforcement measures grant scheme.

“Some €3 million was allocated to local authorities in support of the 2020 anti-dumping initiative,” the minister said.

A sum of €1 million of this allocation was ring-fenced to combat illegal dumping activities arising from the Covid-19 crisis.

“Anti-dumping initiative funding supported in excess of 300 projects nationwide in 2020. Since the introduction of the anti-dumping initiative in 2017, total funding of €9.3 million has been provided in support of more than 1,000 projects.

“This has resulted in the removal of more than 10,000t of illegally dumped waste from our landscape.”

Funding allocations for 2021 have not yet been finalised

The minister said that department officials continue to liaise with enforcement staff in local authorities “with a view to obtaining information on 2020 out-turns and indicative trends”.

“This information will help to decide on priorities for 2021 funding and enforcement activities. We cannot be complacent in this area,” the minister added.

“The senator mentioned the need for a nationwide campaign, so I note that my department launched a national anti-dumping awareness communications campaign – Your Country, Your Waste – in November last year.

This campaign was developed as part of the 2020 anti-dumping initiative and includes a tailored suite of information and awareness messaging for use by local authorities and community and voluntary groups.

“[Funding] allocations for 2021 have not yet been finalised, but my department will continue to invest significantly in the local authority network to ensure there is a robust sustainable waste enforcement system in place to combat all illegal waste activity.”