Dog littering is “the bane of Tidy Towns groups” across the county, according to councillors who discussed the county’s Litter Management Plan this week.
A sub-committee has been established to consider how best to tackle the increasing problem of dog littering, particularly in areas where there is a lot of pedestrian traffic.
Councillors insisted that, in addition to providing bins and signage, the council must begin to raise awareness of the issue.
“It is not just about putting in bins but also about raising awareness,” said Cllr Denis Leonard.
Cllr Ken Glynn, who also raised the issue at a recent meeting of Mullingar Town Council, said the council must put dog litter bins and appropriate signage in place.
“Any given evening there are hundreds of people out exercising and walking, and it is the responsibility of all dog owners to pick up after their dogs. We need to look at this for any area that is well known for walkers.”
Councillors also suggested that CCTV be introduced for areas where there has been a high level of litter being dumped.
Cllr Frankie Keena said he would like to see a pilot programme of CCTV rolled out, while Cllr Tom Allen said CCTV would act as a deterrent if those who litter are “named and shamed”.
“CCTV is the only way to stop the litter problem. There are more litter bins in Moate than any town in Ireland but people use them to dispose of household litter. CCTV is expensive, but if we start to catch people we can name and shame them,” he suggested.
Cllr Gabrielle McFadden added that one particular estate in Athlone had had “a terrible time of it” regarding illegal dumping, and wanted to know what level of CCTV is available.
“People who dump litter at derelict houses are not going to be put off by signs,” she added.
Director of services David Hogan told councillors that Westmeath County Council had received €15,000 from the Government to assist in the provision of CCTV for this purpose, and that the council would be identifying litter blackspots in which to put it in place.
He added that education in schools was an important part of litter prevention, with ninety per cent of primary and 100 per cent of secondary schools are involved in the Green Schools Initiative.
Cllr Denis Leonard also recommended a handbook be made available to local Tidy Towns and other community and voluntary groups so that they are aware of and can access whatever funding is available.
Westmeath County Council’s Litter Management Plan is due for renewal at the end of 2012, which will involve public participation and the plan going on public display.