I propose to take Questions Nos. 352 and 354 together.
Enforcement actions against illegal waste activity are a matter for the Local Authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and my Department does not compile statistics in relation to prosecutions taken or fines imposed. However Recommended Criteria for Environmental Inspection (RMCEI) data compiled by the EPA for 2017 include the following waste statistics for local authorities:
- 60,806 Waste complaints received;
- 59,228 Waste complaints resolved;
- 17,814 Waste inspections undertaken;
- 59,808 Litter patrols/investigations;
- 13,387 Waste enforcement actions initiated;
- 12,013 Enforcement actions closed;
- 638 Waste prosecutions taken;
- 484 Waste prosecutions closed.
Penalties under the Waste Management Act are already substantial. Persons who are found to be responsible for, or involved in, the unauthorised disposal of waste are liable to a maximum fine of €5,000 on summary conviction and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months, and to a maximum fine of €15 million on conviction on indictment and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.
There have been instances of individuals jailed for offences committed under the Waste Management Act and the EPA in 2015 secured a record €20 million fine against a company for causing pollution at a former landfill in Co. Kildare.
My Department has previously issued a policy direction to local authorities instructing them to pursue illegal holders of waste in accordance with the maximum potential sanctions available under the law in order to maximise the deterrent factor and aim to eliminate the economic benefit deriving from such illegal activity.
My Department has introduced a number of measures to strengthen efforts to improve waste enforcement generally and target illegal dumping. These include:
- An annual waste enforcement grant of €7.4 million to support the recruitment and retention of 150 local authority waste enforcement personnel across the country- Cork County Council receive an allocation of €455,000 in this regard;
- The establishment of the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities;
- The establishment of a National Waste Enforcement Steering Committee which facilitates more co-ordinated multi agency operations taking place on a regional basis.
In addition, my Department has developed the Anti-Dumping Initiative to work in partnership with local authorities and community organisations in identifying high risk or problem areas, developing appropriate enforcement responses and carrying out clean-up operations.
I recently announced funding of €3 million for the 2019 Anti-Dumping Initiative, an increase of 50% on last year, to support communities around the country to continue to tackle illegal dumping. Innovation, surveillance using drones, special collections for awkward items like mattresses, spreading awareness among young people and recognising the work of volunteers will play a role in this year’s campaign.
There will be a special emphasis on targeting dumping blackspots and illegal operators. Since 2017, the Anti-Dumping Initiative has supported the removal of some 5,000 tonnes of illegal waste from some of the country’s most notorious fly tipping black-spots and approximately 50% of this year’s funding will go towards continuing to tackle this problem.