Tackling scourge of illegal dumping

ILLEGAL dumping, a dreadful problem in Ireland for years, is getting worse, with the recession being cited as one of the main reasons: some experts now reckon this activity has increased by up to 30% in the past year.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) says it has reached ‘epidemic proportions’, while security companies and local authorities have taken to installing hidden cameras at blackspot locations favoured by the dumpers all around the country. Teams of volunteers can also been seen picking up other people’s litter along our roads.

For such reasons, a new Waterford company, called BIGbin, that says it can help to reduce illegal dumping and the amount of unrecorded waste, which might normally be burned, left in ditches, or just thrown anywhere, is to be welcomed. The idea is to provide a service to people outside of the traditional waste streams to dispose of their rubbish in a manner that is convenient for them and environmentally safe. They could be people on tight budgets, singles, couples, small households, empty nesters, pensioners and holiday home owners.

BIGbin founder John O’Connor says he is aiming to provide a service to people that might not catered for by private waste disposal firms and local authority waste schemes. His system works simply enough through compactors in petrol station forecourts and shopping centre car parks in both urban and rural areas.

People can bring bags of domestic waste to these compactors. Using the latest cutting edge technology customers can purchase a ticket in the shop, key in a number and then place their bags of rubbish in the BIGbin. Each load costs €4.50 which covers a full black bag and a smaller bag of waste.

All mixed municipal (black bin) domestic waste is accepted seven days a week. When the BIGbin is full — 400-500 bags — this information is communicated back to a computer. The bin is then collected and brought to a recycling centre where up to 50% of the contents are recycled through biological treatment.

Founded in 2009, the system is already operating in 15 towns and cities, including Youghal and Mallow, Co Cork, with demand increasing month on month, a testimony to the demand for this type of waste disposal service.

Mr O’Connor says his company’s greatest challenge has been in dealing with the red tape and bureaucracy of local authorities, which they have successfully overcome in most areas.

They have secured funding of €1.5 million for the introduction of 48 BIGbins. This will create an additional five jobs. By 2014 they aim to have bins operating in most towns and cities. A Wexford-based company manufactures the bins, helping to create and sustain a further 25 jobs in Ireland.

Customers targeted include people who are unable to obtain kerbside collection, those with excess waste after a holiday period, motorhome/boat owners, those who generate a small amount of waste therefore making bin charges unfeasible, those who use recycling facilities, people in short-term accommodation and transient workers.

Separately, TEC Security Services, a company that has been hired by several councils to combat littering, has more than 3,000 cameras in operation at littering blackspots.

Cameras can pick up vehicle registration plates at night, record for months at a time and be monitored from central control areas. Critically, film footage can also be used in court cases. TEC believes illegal dumping has risen by 30% because of the recession.

Cork County Council is one of the authorities to bring successful prosecutions, following the use of cameras in covert operations. Offenders have been fined €1,000, with €770 costs. Footage seen by a judge showed a lavatory seat, child’s buggy and clothing being dumped.

Farmers are plagued by illegal dumping. I know of one who, a couple of times a year, wakes in the morning to find a heap of rubbish dumped in exactly the same spot close to a passage leading to his land.

IFA deputy president Eddie Downey has called on councils to introduce stronger deterrents against illegal dumpers. His call came after a farmer was seriously assaulted when he challenged illegal dumpers on his property.

The farmer had endured persistent and indiscriminate dumping on his land. When he attempted to warn off the dumpers, he was assaulted and suffered head injuries, according to Mr Downey. The matter is under Garda investigation.

Dumping in the countryside has reached epidemic proportions, Mr Downey says. Farmers are finding a huge variety of nappies, mattresses, etc., on their land.


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