Westmeath taxpayers cough up nearly €600k a year cleaning cig butts

Having to spend up to €1.4 million on clearing litter each year, Westmeath County Council adopted its third litter management plan last week.

In 2009, the greatest percentage of litter in Westmeath was cigarette related - butts and packaging - and this accounted for 43 per cent.

Food-related litter came second on 32 per cent, with chewing gum being the biggest part of that. Packaging was third at 13.5 per cent.

Following on from the work of the two previous plans in 2006 and 2008, the council is continuing to promote the roll-out of more composting and the Green Schools programme.

By the end of 2009, 77 schools in the county were registered with An Taisce under this programme, and a remarkable 12 tonnes of waste is diverted from landfill from these schools every day.

The council also sells home composting bins for €40, and provides composting workshops annually free of charge to members of the public.

At the moment, there are 50 bring-centres for glass and aluminium cans dotted around the county, and at 42 of these there are textile recycling facilities also.

To help combat the problem across the county, the council has established a Lo-call number 1890 320005 to which citizens can report litter problems.

Last year there were 1,031 complaints recorded, 360 on-the-spot fines issued (€150 each ), 63 prosecutions taken (to a maximum of €3,000 if convicted ), and €33,400 raised in litter fines.

Welcome inclusions in this year’s plan is making the placement of leaflets on car windscreens ilegal, and requiring the removal of all the plastic cable ties from lampposts after an election. Illegal roadside signage and abandoned cars are acknowledged as a growing problem in the report, but were not quantified.

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