Illegal dumping has increased across Ireland as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Dublin City Council estimates a 25% increase in fly-tipping in the capital. In other locations like Cork, Waterford and Wexford, where people used to pick up after dirty neighbours are currently unable to do so due to social distancing.
Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton said he is deeply concerned with reports of increased illegal dumping and that is it is a scourge on Irish communities. So much so that he has ring-fenced one million euro of funds from the Anti Dumping Initiative to tackle this reported increase in illegal dumping during the COVID-19 crisis.
What is Fly-Tipping?
Fly-tipping is the illegal disposal of waste onto land that is unauthorised to accept that waste.
The term comes from an amalgamation of two sources. In the 1850s, “on the fly” was used to describe moving recklessly or carelessly. Combine this with the physical act of tipping something out and you get fly-tipping!
What happens if you get caught fly-tipping?
If you are caught dumping illegally in Ireland, you could face a minimum fine of €5,000 or 12 months in prison or a maximum of €15 million or ten years in prison.
The Waste Management Act essentially states that the primary responsibility for the disposal of waste lies with its producer. This Act imposes a duty of care on holders of waste to not dispose of waste that is likely to cause environmental pollution.
Bear in mind; your local authority can require you, as a householder or business operator, to prove you are correctly disposing of waste if you can't you can receive an on-the-spot €75 fine. You'll have 21 days to pay to avoid a prosecution, while repeat offenders can be hit with fines of up to €2,500 if brought before the courts. Persistent contravention is threatened with penalties of €500 for every day of the continued breach after conviction.
Why do people fly-tip?
For some it's laziness. For others, it's a kind of arrogance where they don't perceive it to be dumping. People without a regular bin collection service in rural Ireland are often the most likely suspects and unfortunately, it is the most scenic parts of the country that are worst affected by fly-tipping.
It's estimated that around 80,000 households across Ireland are illegally disposing of waste every year.
From this, the Central Statistic Office deduces that these households illegally dump over 64,000 tonnes of waste each year. That's equal to more than 60 20-tonne truckloads of waste discarded every week!
Why has fly-tipping increased during lockdown?
Firstly, while some have stayed open, a lot of the usual waste disposal facilities haven't been available. Across Ireland Bring Centres, Recycling Centres and some dumps have closed as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions.
A lot of facilities still available have been bottle banks which are unsuitable for the majority of waste generated by households.
Secondly, panic buying of household goods before the coronavirus has increased tremendously, along with packaging from increased online shopping.
Finally, many people now have the time to start renovating their homes and take on new hobbies such as upcycling. People don't know what to do with the excess waste so unfortunately are leaving in the streets and on the sides of roads.
Here’s what you can do about fly-tipping
You should report any illegal dumping to your local authority. They will investigate the incident and take whatever necessary actions.
If your local authority can identify the culprit, then they can still be prosecuted, whether or not they were caught fly-tipping.
The other option is to report it to the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line.
The complaints line will pass your report to the local authority, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Garda Síochána, where appropriate.
Another option is to name and shame the violators. You might remember this viral video from Galway a few years back. We doubt that guy tried dumping his mattress like that again!
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