This is a rolling update first issued 14th September 2023. I'll be posting more on this in due course.
19th Sept 2023 - Deadline passed for public submissions See Paul Gogarty submission on draft plan below. I may be tabling amendments to the draft if the SDCC report does not reflect my submission and that of others.
South Dublin County Council's Draft Litter Management Strategy
Submission by Cllr Paul Gogarty
I would like to make a number of general observations as an elected representative and reserve the right to table amendments to the draft policy as currently worded in due course if changes recommended to do not reflect the urgency in some areas.
South Dublin County Council is no better or worse than most suburban areas in the country. It would be unfair to levy criticism on the Council for what are many legislative and structural difficulties throughout Ireland. However, this is not mean that there are not many areas where improvements could be made, or at the very least sourcing them in terms of assistance via national funding and or legislative changes.
While there is absolutely no excuse for anyone dropping litter due to the lack of available nearby bins or hanging a bag of dog excrement on a bush, ostensibly for the lack of any available bin nearby, it is nevertheless fair comments to point to a deficit of bins in South Dublin.
Anecdotally, South Dublin does appear to have less bins in certain areas such as parks than Fingal or Kildare councils and there are complaints regularly made about lack of bins in many residential areas, especially, but not exclusively in newer areas. Rollout of new bins is painfully slow process and needs to be addressed.
I have been contacted numerous times by residents from newer areas such as Adamstown and indeed from older areas and county, pointing out that in their view, there are not enough bins. Now, I acknowledge that in some cases the positioning of certain bins encourages additional domestic refuse to be dropped in and/or illegal dumping in particular locations. But there appears to be a funding issue primarily. If it is not a funding issue, I would like the Council to clarify why more bins cannot be placed in different locations.
Whatever about the existing number of bins, we constantly receive complaints about overflowing bins, not just in areas near playgrounds in the public parks after a spell of good weather, but also on roads, within the estates and on steps leading towards schools. Again, there seem to be a deficit of human resources allocated towards the emptying of existing bins.
My understanding is that public sector recruitment embargoes no longer exist, at least to the same extent as 10 years ago. In this context, I would be grateful in the Chief Executive's response to submissions for an explanation as to why more staff cannot be employed. Surely a proposal could be put to councillors and a choice made in the budget regarding the provision of additional staff in certain areas, as opposed to the recruitment of additional staffing different areas were such funding to be available.
Operation of hand cart services
During Covid it was the case that many of the handcart cleaners were employed in the earlier stages of the daythan before. The advantage that this provided according to the workers was that when the Council workers were going around there were less parked vehicles blocking areas to be cleaned, less buggies, less schoolchildren going to and from school, thus overall a more efficient way of keeping the streets clean.
SDCC for its part reinstated the original hours, but I firmly believe that this should be reviewed at least on a rostered scheme whereby workers rote very early 5 am starts with 8am starts.
Litter Warden numbers
South Dublin County Council has a handful of litter wardens. How can an area with a population of almost 300,000 at this stage be expected to be covered adequately by five or so wardens. We need to quadruple the amount of the wardens so that all instances of illegal dumping can be monitored, and prosecutions issued. Whatever about the low level of current fines, which appears to be a national legislative issue, the more fines issued, surely the more money available to employ staff.
If this cannot be done adequately through SDCC resources, then perhaps - and this may be controversial -a similar situation to the traffic warden service should be looked at whereby litter wardens are employed under contract with a portion of payments being related to the number of fines achieved.
Alternatives to this would be for example to allow park rangers limited litter warden powers so that, using a body cam, they can identify and on a public website name and shame offenders within public parks. Or, where it is feasible to take the registration number of a vehicle being used by the offender, to issue fines on the basis of a listed address for the vehicle and to seek redress through the courts if possible.
If elected reps are on the ground all the time, then surely they should be able to also identify vehicles where litter is dropped from or areas where is clear to identify people and pass this on to the litter wardens. There should be a streamlined system to and to enable this.
Greater enforcement should lead to less incidences of litter.
In relation to the above, the Government can certainly halve visible litter overnight by the reintroduction of a refundable deposit system, also known as moneyback bottles and cans. While the much touted examples of voluntary systems for people to bring bottles back to supermarkets and receive tokens in turn are welcome, a system needs to put in place with proper moneyback refundable deposits so that anyone who drops a plastic bottle with a 20 cent levy will pick it up, or else it will be a lucrative sideline for someone else to do it for them and thus keep the area clear of visible litter.
Cigarette Butt Tossers
I have raised this issue several times in the past through motions asking the Council to get more involved in dealing with the throwing of cigarette butts on the grounds both individuals stamping on them or those throwing them from cars. The Council has tended to pass the buck to very limited schemes and adverts on bus shelters by other agencies and voluntary groups. However the Council is seriously reneging on its obligations to deal with litter by acting absolutely woefully on this matter. I have not seen any educational documentation in relation to cigarette butts, which contain plastic and are of long-lasting damage to the environment, so as to show individuals who smoke that it is entirely disgusting and environmentally damaging to throw their butts on the grounds.
The situation is so bad that I did in fact spot a member of South Dublin County Council staff, who is charged with cleaning streets, discarding their own cigarette butt on the ground and stamping it into the grass. This is pathetic. This is not leadership. The Council needs to educate all its own staff firstly, and then educate the public.
It also needs to then ensure that there are mechanisms in place for penalising the individuals who drop cigarettes, such as litter wardens engaging with and seeking to fine them (which I acknowledge may be difficult if they do not give their personal details), and especially where their cars can be identified, and they can be prosecuted. Reports given back to me when I requested information on number of fines issued in relation cigarette butts were not very helpful or promising. The Council needs to seriously step up in this regard.
There seem to be groups of people who go round and organise dumping domestic refuse in the vicinity of bottle banks and anywhere they can find to get away with it. A number of concerned citizens have tackled people in this regard and have been threatened as a result. These individuals go round in vans and cars and surely to the use of CCTV and other reports can nab them.
More can be done to prosecute serial offenders. They seem to be getting away with impunity at the moment. We are not just talking about individuals who have a grievance with paying for domestic rubbish collection, but also groups who go door-to-door offering cheap rates to clear rubbish from houses and then dispose of it wherever they can, but certainly not in a licensed facility.
A harder line also needs to be taken with people dumping domestic green waste in bushes or leaving food scraps and brown bin waste on the edges of public greens. A whatsapp number should be set up to allow people to send video evidence and the addresses of the individuals concerned in all incidences, whether professionals or amateur dumpers.
Shops and retail outlets
I recently put in a membersnet query about a particular shopping centre in South Dublin – the subject of numerous complaints – asking how many fines had issued for litter in the previous three years. The answer was zero.
This is not acceptable. Whether it is owners or management companies of shopping complexes – and to a lesser extent individual retailers – such outlets should observe their legal duties in relation to frequent tidying of litter outside premises and in car parks and entrances. Otherwise this blows out into the public realm. If a word in their ear doesn’t work, penalties and court action should.
At the same time bins in the vicinity under the effective control of the Council should always be emptied so as to show a clear relationship between the retail outlet and the litter, otherwise this excuse can always be used.
Schools and Education.
While most of our young people are generally observant in terms of keeping the litter until they can find a bin, or else bring it home, there are also a large number of children and adults who discard litter with impunity. We only need to look at our beaches every Summer, where huge amount of rubbish are discarded weekly.
These obnoxious individuals should bringing it to a bin or even better bring it home. We will need to look at open-air concerts or even South Dublin County Council fun days where there is usually a lot of litter to pick up. Now obviously, if the bins were collected more frequently people have less excuses. But a lot of the litter is just litter thrown on the ground by people who have no respect for their environment and their communities.
In this regard, we can only start with the children and schools at Primary and Secondary level. It's too late for their parents and other person who don’t care, except in terms of prosecution, but it's not too late to instil some form of civic and environmental awareness with younger people.
In this respect I would like to know more in relation to South Dublin County Council engagement with local schools. Do we have a person employed to go to schools and to carry out programmes, or is it left up to litter wardens and other staff members whose time is already occupied. In this regard and possibly in conjunction with other funding sources, South Dublin County Council should employ at least one and possibly two full-time education officers whose sole role is to go around primary, secondary and other educational establishments in the county to educate people about the environmental damage caused by litter, including by cigarette butts, including by plastic vaping paraphernalia and also including by discarded nitrous oxide canisters.
This also includes the costs to the Council taxpayer in terms of cleaning up broken glass bottles, the life cycle of various discarded litter items such as plastic bottles, metal etc and a prize fund of some sort to encourage good environmental practice and more cleanups by students in schools. Many competitions for slogans, perhaps competitions for drawings about environmental awareness, perhaps campaigns that children could do in transition year; the possibilities are endless. If the resources are put in.
There's a lot more that can be done, but these are just afew ideas and I hope the Council will take them on board, or at least outline the challenges in taking on board and make recommendations as to how elected reps at local or national level can help progress the ideal litter management strategy.
I believe SDCC should be aiming for the highest levels of litter management in the county, the lowest levels of tolerance for poor behaviour, the best educational resources and to encourage volunteers and make it easier for those willing to help to collect litter and have it subsequently collected by the Council.
Social credits scheme
Overall I think this scheme is working well, however there are some people who don’t wish to sign up to a scheme, but are out and about nonetheless cleaning up litter. These are usually older people and it should be easier for such volunteers to be able to phone up and order SDCC labelled bags without having to fill in forms.
Ballymount Civic Amenity
More data needs to be publicly available each year in terms of what proportion of waste is recycled, sent for incineration, or landfilled at this facility. This would allow proper scrutiny in terms of targets being met.
As a Councillor I have often had to pick up material myself that has been reported because the Council has not collected in good time. In this respect I would like each councillor to be facilitated when showing their Council card to be allowed to deliver small quantities of such non-identifiable dumped material like mattresses and rubble or nitrous oxide cannisters to the Ballymount Civic Amenitywithout incurring a financial penalty.
14th Sept 2023
Deadline of 19th September 4pm. Click here to input into SDCC's Draft Litter Management plan: https://consult.sdublincoco.ie/en/consultation/draft-litter-management-plan