New legislation has been signed which will allow for CCTV footage to be used by local authorities in illegal dumping prosecutions.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ossian Smyth, welcomed the passing into law this week of the Circular Economy Act 2022, after it was signed by President Michael D Higgins.

The Green Party representative said that it had become “nearly impossible” in recent years for local authorities to prosecute people for illegal dumping.

To date, local authorities’ ability to use CCTV to identify and target offenders has been restricted due to data-protection regulations.

Smyth said that people are sick of the fact that some can make money by dumping rubbish in the countryside and cannot be prosecuted for it.

illegal dumping in Coillte forests is a serious concern

Both the Data Protection Commission and the Attorney General were asked to examine how a local authority could prosecute somebody by using CCTV footage while also maintaining privacy rights.

It was recommended that legislation be introduced for “a very restricted form of CCTV surveillance” – facial recognition and automatic number plate recognition technologies are specifically excluded.

The CCTV surveillance will only be done at a particular site for a certain period of time and the cameras must be overt.

Smyth explained that evidence obtained can only be used to prosecute crimes of littering and dumping.

Among the other key elements of the Circular Economy Act 2022 are:

  • Prohibiting the exploration for and extraction of coal, lignite and oil shale;
  • Phasing out single-use packaging;
  • Incentivising the use of reusable and recyclable materials in place of disposable ones;
  • Introducing mandatory segregation for commercial waste;
  • Establishing a legal requirement for government to prepare a circular economy where waste and resource use are minimised;
  • Introducing a strategy and national food loss prevention roadmap;
  • Diverting environmental levies into a ‘Circular Economy Fund’ to be ringfenced and used for environmental measures.

Minister Smyth stated that many of the provisions in the act are measures that the Green Party had been pushing for “for a long time”.

“These measures, when taken together, will work to shift businesses, retailers, and consumers, off the current damaging and wasteful throwaway model to something more sustainable. This is simple stuff but it stands to have a huge impact.

“By cutting down on disposable items, tackling dumping, and forcing the segregation of all waste, this law has the potential to divert hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material from landfill and incineration,” he said.

“This new law will also keep the circular economy and tackling waste on the political agenda by demanding the regular updating of the circular economy and food waste strategies,” Smyth added.

The minister said that the act underpins Ireland’s shift from a ‘take-make-waste’ linear model to a more sustainable pattern of production and consumption, which retains the value of resources in the economy for as long as possible.

He added that this approach will also significantly reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.