Almost 1,000 unwanted sofas were dropped off at a Meath recycling centre last week in a bid by local authorities to drive hundreds of so-called 'Man With A Van' illegal waste collectors off the county's roads.
Meath Co. Council waived the usual €25 fee for recycling bulky waste for the day and encouraged home-owners to get rid of the sofa from the shed for free, instead of paying the so-called 'Man with a Van' to take it away.
The authorities are planning to hold more 'free' days in the future in order to make the unauthorised waste collectors redundant by reducing the amount of old white goods, sofas, unwanted furniture and general big items in homes around the country.
Last year, the council spent over €2m on waste management in Meath, including cleaning up illegal dumping.
On average, 400 litter fines are issued annually with a number of these going directly to court for larger scale pollution.
In an attempt to get tough on the illegal waste collectors, the council are also closely monitoring social media for posts advertising their services and advise 'followers' when they become aware of illegal operators working in specific areas.
At present, if the council finds evidence among waste dumped, then it's the householder who pays a hefty fine, after often being duped into thinking their waste was being disposed of properly.
"This initiative for sofas was a complete success and it just goes to show you how many unwanted sofas are out there, and there are probably many more stored in sheds all over the county," said Meath Co. Council's Environmental Officer Bernadine Carry.
The council are also reducing their gate fees on recycling centres across the county to €2 from December 1
"Basically, we want to put the illegal 'Man with a Van' out of business in Meath," she said
"We are not talking the Man with the Van that does great work in helping people in other ways. These are the unauthorised people who offer to take people's waste away for a sum, without a proper waste collection permit. Unfortunately, they drive away and dump the rubbish along the road, leaving us to clean it up and the householder to pay the hefty fine.
"Unfortunately most householders think they are genuine and get quite a shock when the summons or fine lands at their door.
"We have heard cases of the operator showing an old receipt from a Recycling Centre and saying it's a permit and the householder is then too intimidated to refuse - so don't put yourself in that position.
Ms Carry said that Meath Co. Council were determined to take a tough stance on these illegal waste collectors and were monitoring social media closely.
"We have come across about 30 operators in recent times there are hundreds more working the country. They are posting on all buy and sell forums and if we see a post, we redact the phone number and warn against them on our social media platforms.
"They are hard to catch up with as they change numbers, use burner phones, direct message people and often change their vehicle registration numbers.
"A legitimate waste collector will have a waste collection permit, they will have the number of their permit visible on their vehicles and we will have a list of the vehicle registrations attached to the permit.
"We are going to do everything we can to try and ban the man with the van from collecting waste illegally," she said as well as to provide an economical solution to all householders in Meath for their day to day waste."