James Carroll sniffs around the dirty business of illegal dumping in Dublin.
The law is being flouted in Dublin by some businesses, as two-thirds of litter fines are going unpaid.
Anti-litter campaigner Cieran Perry, a member of Dublin City Council, said that rubbish is being dumped and littered on the streets of Dublin at a distressing rate. “The number one reason is, the will is not there to enforce it,” he said.
“We have a litter problem in Dublin,” Perry adds. “If you go to a lot of places in and around the city, you see a lot of dumped bags.”
The figures of unpaid fines, and the lack of will behind them, are distinctly clear to see. “There is no detailed breakdown as to why those fines were not paid,” Perry said.
“If management were serious about tackling the litter and illegal dumping, they would have gone through the figures and seen where it is happening. They haven’t done the basic analysis to see where the fall down is.”
On the spot fines for littering is €150 and the council spends €300,000 cleaning chewing gum and another €500,000 a year on cleaning graffiti.
An example of the law being disregarded and the council not being on top of matters was in 2015, when, according to Perry, 70 fines were issued to a pop-up shop, Halloween HQ, for illegal postering. “None of the fines were paid,” he said.
“No other legislation would be breached like that. If you were towed for illegal parking, you would not write to the council saying I do not respect your authority, it just does not happen.”
According to Perry, Halloween HQ last year again put up posters illegally. The council knew the premises, identified the offender but did not pursue the fines.
“I regularly asked about how the progress of the 70 fines was going,” Perry says. He says the council has responded by saying “they could no longer release that info because of data protection”.
Perry says Halloween HQ is not the biggest offender, but is an example of the lack of interest in tackling the problem.
The main problem for the council is businesses leave their waste outside, at the wrong time of the day, so waste sits idle on the streets outside the premises. Waste must be off the street between 10am and 5pm.
“Usually how the council find illegal dumpers is by finding letters with their addresses in the bags but recently dumpers have become more canny,” Perry said.
Initiatives that the council have installed to deter the public from illegal dumping have generally worked.“When there is an initiative started, the figures stand out a mile,” he said.
CCTV have been installed in areas such as Glenvale in Lucan, Church Lane in Rathfarnham and Russel Square in Tallaght.
Audio messages have also been installed in areas to tell dog owners to clean up after their pets in parks in Palmerstown, Tallaght, Walkinstown, Wellington and Greenhills park.
In a road that is local to councillor Perry, bags are dumped in the exact same spot every day and collected, unofficially, every day.
“What has become the norm on this road, in particular, is as new people move in, they see what is happening and assume it is a collection service,” he said.
“I’ve seen people do this in broad daylight and clearly they must feel that they are not illegally dumping.”
Perry believes there is no incentive not to dump because there is little chance of being caught: “If you are caught, there is a one in three chance of being fined.”
In Dublin Central 691 fines were issued by five litter wardens in 2015. That’s fewer than 140 fines per warden, approximately one fine every second working day.
Some 465 prosecutions were taken, but there were only 47 convictions.