Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Questions (59)

Brian Stanley

Question:

59. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to consider introducing a mattress and armchair amnesty across the State as an anti-dumping initiative. [14004/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Communications)

My question is on the issue of mattresses, couches and armchairs being dumped. Last year, the then Minister, Deputy Naughten, introduced an amnesty. It was a great success, by all accounts. Will the Government consider rerunning that programme this year and broadening it out to include other bulky items?

I thank the Deputy for his question. Bulky household goods, such as mattresses, are a problematic waste stream for local authorities when they are illegally dumped in ditches and green areas. They are unsightly and their presence generally encourages further illegal dumping in an area. That is why my Department provided funding under the 2018 anti-dumping initiative to support a mattress amnesty campaign nationally. Under this initiative, approximately 11,000 mattresses were collected at 40 events throughout the country, with local authorities encouraged to direct these mattresses to the network of social economy enterprises for recycling. On foot of the impact of last year’s initiative, I am considering, as part of the 2019 anti-dumping initiative, to targeting the problem of illegal dumping in a holistic manner. That may also mean addressing bulky waste diversion.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I want to impress on him the importance of this matter. As he stated, this is a major problem for local authorities. These items are bulky and are not things that can be put into the bin. It not like garden waste that can be put into the green organic bin and moved on to be recycled that way. Last year was one of the worst years for fly tipping and illegal dumping on streets and in back alleys, ditches, bogs, forests etc. My understanding is that the cost of the scheme last year was relatively small. The Minister might tell me what that cost was. When the then Minister announced the scheme, I remember the figure was fairly modest. The scheme, however, was a huge success.

In County Laois, more than 800 mattresses were gathered up under this initiative. There is a high cost if these items are dumped in ditches or bogs. The local authority has to pull things like mattresses out of drains, ditches etc. Hiring contractors to deal with that situation costs the local authority greatly. The National Transport Authority spent €730,000 picking up litter along motorways. That is another example. We also need to look at side-by-side competition in the collection of waste in an estate. It is not feasible for many households to dispose of a couch, an armchair or a mattress. Will the Minister consider broadening the scheme this year to include such items?

I do not have the universal cost but I do have the figure for County Laois. It cost €20,000 to collect 822 mattresses last year. If we expand that figure, it probably cost about €300,000 to collect the 11,000 mattresses overall. These projects operate by way of call. It depends, therefore, on local authorities coming forward with credible proposals to deal with this issue. A range of measures can be supported where local authorities feel they can organise an effective programme. We are trying to ensure the money we assign is used most effectively. If good proposals come forward to recycle mattresses, as was successful last year, we will look at those. We will also look at other materials such as couches. We will support whatever the local authorities feel will give the best bang for the buck.

The Minister is giving some hope with that answer. I am glad to see he is open to considering other bulky items. Couches and armchairs present the same problem. It is not an easy fix, particularly in urban areas where people might not have their own car to dispose legally of couches and suites of furniture in a proper environmental manner. Measures were also put in place to ensure the scheme was not exploited by commercial operators. That was done very simply. The reports I have heard back from councils, in Laois and Offaly, state this initiative was a great success and we should do it again. From what the Minister said, I gather he is open to extending the scheme to couches and armchairs as well. Will he confirm that? We have a major problem with illegal dumping and we need stamp it out. There are many bogus waste collectors picking up these bulky items in the backs of vans. That is where much of the illegal dumping is coming from and we need an all-out effort to try to stamp it out.

I will fund initiatives again this year, but they will be based on the proposals that come from the local authorities. We will want to see a good proposal that would warrant support. Deputy Stanley is right that 11,000 mattresses were taken in last year. It is a project of real benefit, therefore, and the Department is disposed to doing more in that area. Let us wait, however, to see what proposals come forward when we issue the call.

Questions Nos. 60 and 61 replied to with Written Answers.