Report finds councils' litter enforcement methods 'ineffective' as majority of fines are unpaid

A new waste management report has found that less than half of all litter fines issued by local authorities in the last five years have been paid.

The ‘Public Waste, Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ report by the charity VOICE found that only 43% of all litter fines issued from 2012 to 2017 have been paid, equating to just 21,310 out of almost 50,000 fines issued in the last five years.

It found that 17,874 (36%) of the fines issued, were reported to be cancelled, disregarded and/or unpaid by councils during this period.

The VOICE report was carried out over the last 10 months based on collated data from all local councils in Ireland for the last five years across areas of litter management, enforcement efforts, street bin and street cleaning costs and waste types.

As well as finding that current methods of litter enforcement are ineffective in preventing littering, the report also concluded that current data available to local authorities is “wholly inadequate” in terms of the types of waste collected, its quantity and how it is managed.

It found that on average, local authorities are paying more than €1,600 per tonne of waste collected and disposed of through the public waste system. In comparison, it said typical household waste costs between €200 and €300 per tonne.

Urban councils largely lead the way in terms of fines issued and waste expenditure, with Dublin City Council accounting for almost half of the annual nationally reported expenditure, spending approximately €30m on street cleaning each year.

From 2012 to 2017, Cork City Council issued 2,113 fines, while Cork County Council issued 1,719. Of these, 44% were paid to Cork City Council and 54% were paid to Cork County Council.

Total waste expenditure figures supplied by both Cork City and County councils for the report were incomplete.

Mindy O’Brien, VOICE coordinator, said: “This study has illustrated that we need a properly informed debate on the real cost, both financial and environmental, of litter, street cleaning and street bin management, and must find methods that actually deter litter louts."

The Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment has not commented on the report.

VOICE is a non-governmental charity established in 1997.

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