Transition Monaghan member Dearbhla Lenehan writes about the new pay-by-weight waste collection system due to come into effect later this year and how this could have a knock on effect on illegal dumping in the county.
A planned pay-by-weight waste collection system is proposed to come into effect in July this year. This new system has a higher charge per kg of waste destined for landfill, with lower charges for compostable and recyclable waste. This is designed to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill, however, there are concerns that the increased bill for those who refuse to change their ways could result in increased cases of illegal dumping.
Illegal dumping – Source: Monaghan County Council Litter Management Plan
A study by the Department of Environment found that this is a very effective method for waste prevention and recycling and that in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown immediately after the introduction of this system there was a 20-25% reduction in the amount of waste. It is believed that this new system will divert up to 440,000 tonnes of rubbish from landfills every year.
Many of the items we currently send to landfill sites are recyclable and take years, decades or even centuries to decay in a landfill site. For example, a normal aluminum can if recycled will be back on our shelves within 60 days however it can take 500 years for it to decompose in a landfill site. Plastic bags can be recycled and turned into composite lumber which can then be used in wooden structures like door frames, window frames and outdoor decks to name a few. Recycled plastic bags can also be used to make resin that is then used to produce new plastic bags, crates, pallets, containers and pipes. Unfortunately, a lot of our plastic bags end up in landfill sites and can take up to 100 years to degrade.Hopefully this new pay-by-weight system will encourage users to recycle more.
In November 2015, Cllr. Padraig McNally expressed fears that the prevalence of illegal dumping will only be exacerbated by the introduction of the pay-per-weight waste disposal system. County Monaghan already has many cases of illegal dumping and the Council spends approximately €1 million every year cleaning litter up off our streets. Monaghan has been deemed moderately littered in the 2015 Irish Business Against Litter survey, dropping nearly 20 places from finishing 12th in 2014 to finishing 31st last year. Cllr Paudge Connolly believes the main reason for our drop in position was due to littering on private property in the town, which the council has no control over.
In a bid to tackle the litter problem along the N2 road, CCTV cameras have been installed to deter dumping and catch the culprits. In one litter picking operation organised by Monaghan County Council and undertaken by volunteers last year, three tonnes of waste were collected on the Castleblayney bypass. That’s the equivalent of three years of household waste!
Not only is illegal littering extremely unsightly and often accompanied by a pungent smell, it is also damaging to our environment. Improper dumping can pollute wildlife habitats and lead to the death of fish, birds and small animals. Some of the waste we dispose of is toxic if consumed by animals and if these toxins end up in water bodies they can kill off aquatic life. Broken glass or rusty nails found on footpaths and roads can also be a significant hazard,especially for children.
There is currently an on-the-spot fine of €150 for leaving or throwing litter in a public place and a maximum fine of €3000 if convicted by the District Court of a litter offence. If you would like to report littering / illegal dumping please contact the Environment Section of Monaghan County Council in confidence on Freephone 1800 2000 14 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org with exact details of the location of the litter or illegal dumping. Alternatively, you can report it to the 24 hour National Environmental Complaints line on 1850 365 121 who will pass the information on to the local authority, the Gardaí or the Environmental Protection Agency.