A Westmeath councillor has suggested leaving rubbish to build up on the county’s streets for several weeks so people can see the damage done by littering.
Frustrated by the ever-increasing levels of dumping and littering across the county, Cllr Joe Flanagan said that people are taking it for granted that the council will clean up after them.
“Moate is heavily littered every morning, and people take for granted that it will be cleaned. It would be no harm to leave it for four weeks and let people see. We need to use reverse psychology - people know it will be fixed up the next day,” he suggested.
Cllr John Dolan added that in Ballinahown, which has topped the Tidy Towns in the county for the last eight years, it takes an hour and a half every morning in the village to collect the rubbish that is thrown out of cars.
The comments came as councillors discussed the Litter Management Plan 2014-2016, with many expressing frustration at the continued high level of littering and dog fouling in towns, as well as large scale dumping on rural roads.
The council’s director of services David Hogan said that litter management was “the most depressing thing I’m involved in”. “Last year Westmeath County Council spent €1.694 million on litter management - it is an enormous amount of money given the lack of success we are having,” he said.
This figure includes the cost of street sweeping in the county, the cost of disposing of the waste collected, plus the cost of any special clean-ups required due to illegal dumping and the disposal of this waste.
Cllr Paddy Hill summed up the mood in the chamber when he said that litter management is “a battle we are not winning”.
“It is almost impossible to catch the people who are dumping as it happens at all hours of the night, and they are cute enough not to leave any evidence,” he said.
Several councillors suggested that a “name and shame” approach would act as a deterrent to littering. However Mr Hogan said the council’s hands are tied due to data protection restrictions.
“We are banned from naming and shaming under data protection, but if people are in court for illegal dumping they can be named by the press. The Department are looking at the data protection legislation, and also at increasing fixed penalty notices.”
Cllr Mark Cooney also proposed a system whereby home owners would have to prove they have a system to dispose of their household rubbish - a point which Mr Hogan said was being examined in a new Government policy document.