A scene at Glynwood Bog in recent years.

Call on local authority to 'name and shame' the litter louts!

Westmeath County Council spent an average of €740,000 per annum on litter control in the Athlone Moate municipal district over the three-year lifecycle of its most recent Litter Management Plan, which has prompted calls for litter louts to be named and shamed.

“Why should the taxpayer be asked to pay for the disposal of other people's rubbish?" asked Cllr John Dolan, at the May meeting of the municipal district. “The message has to go out loud and clear that people will be prosecuted if they are caught dumping.”

During a discussion on the Litter Management Plan 2024-2026, Cllr Dolan asked for figures to be provided on the numbers of fines which had been enforced over the past year, but the Acting Director of Services, Ambrose Clarke, said he did not have the most recent figures to hand.

“We have to start with issuing fines and enforcing the laws that are in place, or we are at nothing here,” replied Cllr Dolan, while Cllr Johnny Penrose interjected by saying “name and shame, name and shame, that's the only way to deal with this issue once and for all.”

The Litter Management Plan which was put before the meeting revealed that, from 2020 to 2022, a total of 45 Litter Enforcement Procedures were taken in the Athlone Moate municipal district, 14 in 2020, 10 in 2021 and 15 in 2022. On the spot fines for littering during the same period amounted to 173, with the highest number (109) issued in 2020, which was the first year of Covid-19 restrictions. A total of 668 complaints about littering were received, and investigated.

The local municipal district disposed of 301 tonnes of litter/waste in 2022 alone, made up of street cleaning residue, litter picking on roads and public spaces, and on clean-ups after fly-tipping and community clean-ups.

Street sweeping cost the council €453,205 in 2022, while litter bin collection, litter clean up, litter picking along roads and disposal cost €267,075 in the same year.

The 53-page Litter Management Plan for the Athlone Moate Municipal District states how CCTV monitoring had been “used successfully to deter, monitor and prosecute littering in the past” and sets out that, due to changes in the legislation under the Circular Economy and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2022, which came into effect in February of this year, CCTV monitoring can now continue to be used for the purposes of enforcement.

While the return of CCTV monitoring was broadly welcomed at the meeting, councillors were unhappy with plans by the council executive to erect signage at all locations where CCTV monitoring is in operation.

“If people see a sign telling them there's CCTV they'll just move down the road a bit further and dump their rubbish there,” said Cllr John Dolan. “That system won't work at all in rural areas.”

Cllr Dolan said that CCTV monitoring was “sorely missed” but he asked if there was any way the council could put up surveillance equipment without “telling everyone about it.” Acting Director of Services, Ambrose Clarke, explained that the council are required by law to inform people about the use of CCTV, but added that the signage and the equipment “may not be” in the exact same place which could act as a deterrent to people who were intent on dumping rubbish. “If they were aware that CCTV was somewhere in a rural area they might be less inclined to dump their rubbish anywhere in that area,” he said.

Cllr Vinny McCormack said he would like to see “a concrete plan” being implemented by the council around the use of CCTV which he described as “a strong weapon”, while Cllr Liam McDaniel said it was “just as easy” to bring a fridge to a recycling centre as it was to “bring it down the nearest lane to dump it there”.