By Louise Walsh
Social media is "hugely contributing" to illegal dumping in Meath, according to the local authorities who spent over €2m of taxpayers money in clean-up operations last year.
Meath County Council is now urging internet users to stop and think before using the services of many unauthorised waste collectors who they say are posting ads across Facebook and other social media channels.
The council say that there has been a hike in the amount of waste dumped right across the county, which they are attributing to more and more web surfers paying these waste collectors to take their rubbish away - only for it to be dumped somewhere else.
Meath Community Warden Alan Nolan says residents have to take responsibility for disposing of their rubbish because they are the ones who will be fined for dumping.
"We are getting a lot more call outs this year," he said.
"The dumping is indiscriminate. Although the bogs are usually worse, I found one tonne of rubbish dumped at a lady's gateway, located quite openly on the outskirts of a town.
"Last week, I came across 500 kilos of rubbish on one site and I'd say 100% of that was recyclable, which would have cost the owner nothing to dispose of properly.
"Another site in East Meath was destroyed with one and a half tonne of waste material from a house clearance, including cisterns, ovens, the lot.
"Mattresses are a big problem because people don't want to pay the small charge to get them disposed of properly"
Mr Nolan reckons the dumping incidents across Meath are up 40% in two years - last year alone there were 950 reported cases plus an extra 250 discovered by the environment teams on patrol
"We have to go through every piece of rubbish looking for evidence before it's collected by a waste collector contracted by us.
"I know what's in people's credit union and bank accounts, I know what they buy in their weekly shopping from sifting through the rubbish. It's through this, that we trace the rubbish back to the owner who gets the fine or the court appearance - not the waste collector.'
In 2017, Meath County Council issued 125 litter fines and a further 12 offenders were brought straight to court with successful convictions and Alan expects this figure to be higher by the end of the year as the council ups their campaign to crackdown on dumping.
"Our campaign so far has resulted in a lot more people reporting both cases of dumping and illegal waste collectors.
The council are now urging Facebook users to report ads that they see which are offering to collect waste.
"Every authorised waste collector has a permit and the list is on nwcpo.ie
"Ask these people if they have a permit or check this website. If they're not on the list, click the box on Facebook that says report ad. Also take a screenshot of the ad or just the details, name and number, and report it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"It will stop these people advertising and no-one will know who has reported them," he concluded.