Thursday, 24 January 2019

Questions (13)

John Curran

Question:

13. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the new initiatives and projects planned for 2019 to combat illegal dumping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3171/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Communications)

Since the introduction of domestic waste charges, the incidence of illegal dumping has increased year on year. It is a blight on the landscape in towns and villages and rural Ireland. I know that the Minister of State will say dealing with it is the responsibility of local authorities and they are. As it is a uniform problem in most parts of the country, it is time the Government and the Minister of State's Department looked at an initiative to support local authorities in dealing with this problem.

Under the national waste enforcement steering committee, a network of regulatory bodies work together to target illegal dumping. In 2019 specific priorities are the enforcement of large-scale illegal activity requiring multi-agency responses; identification of sites where illegal dumping occurs for enforcement; and creating regional multi-agency fora with An Garda Síochána in each of the six Garda regions. This will give a particular focus to the work of the regional lead local authorities for waste enforcement. I shall provide assistance with enforcement costs and site solutions in 2019. Enforcement is primarily through the local authority network which undertakes about 140,000 site inspections and 15,000 enforcement actions. Each year the Environmental Protection Agency engages in particular enforcement of an upper tier of waste activities. It also supervises the enforcement activities of local authorities and promotes programmes for critical improvement in enforcement. My Department supports these activities with a €7.4 million enforcement grant and is reviewing the effectiveness of the programme.

In 2019 my Department will also be funding anti-dumping initiatives with a grant of €2 million. The grant has supported hundreds of projects across a range of activities, including clean-up, awareness and prevention, surveillance and smart enforcement. This year's projects are being identified. The criteria for the selection of projects will be communicated to local authorities shortly.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply and welcome the initiatives to which he has referred. He specifically spoke about large-scale dumping. Perhaps in his further remarks he might indicate how many prosecutions actually went through the courts last year and were successful. With a lot of fly-tipping and the like taking place, local authorities will state securing the evidence to secure a successful prosecution is difficult. While there are initiatives, how effective have they been? Let us move away from large-scale dumping and look at the dumping of domestic refuse. Perhaps there should be initiatives to provide greater flexibility for local authorities to offer free services. I do not mean replacing the domestic charge; I refer to civic amenities available for one-off use. Local authorities used to collect large household items once a year, but that has largely been done away with in many parts of the country. Initiatives of that type need to be reintroduced.

Illegal dumping is rife. It is a particular problem in my area of Galway East, but it is rife throughout the country and we need to do something about it. The review that is ongoing will inform us on enforcement and helping local authorities and how effective enforcement and prosecutions have been. I do not actually have the number of prosecutions to hand. That is part of the overall review, but it is important that money is being made available. We need to review and set out criteria to obtain effective results from it. We need to mention the offenders in the media when they are found in order that they are named and shamed. That is also very important.

I agree with a lot of what the Minister of State says and absolutely agree that the offenders should be named and shamed. From what local authorities tell me, however, securing prosecutions in court is difficult. The Minister of State might come back in due course and indicate how many prosecutions were secured last year, but the reality is that many people are never brought to court. That is the underlying issue. From the householder's point of view, I note that we used to have a system under which large items were collected from houses once a year or every second year. That service is no longer available from many local authorities. Funding should be made available to local authorities to provide it. Large-scale dumping often consists of beds, sofas and other large items. Rather than paying for the clean-up afterwards, there should be a pro-active programme, as part of which local authorities would provide that service.

I agree with the Deputy, that for large-scale items which were previously collected or delivered free of charge, some of the grant money of €2 million that I mentioned has been used to do exactly what he is saying. I agree that we need to incentivise people to dispose of what they have in a legal way. We also need to have an awareness campaign to highlight the issue of prosecution. We will get the Deputy the figures he has requested, but we are on the one page. It is a question of making the most effective use of the money to ensure we will end up with an outcome that shows we are reducing this plague on the environment.