With a major litter problem causing concern all around West Cork, Emma Connolly meets the business people trying hard to make a difference
ILLEGAL dumpers are getting more efficient at concealing their identities, making it increasingly difficult to issue them with fines and prosecutions.
That’s according to the County Council who have issued 10 fines of €150 each, under the Litter Pollution Act so far this year in the West Cork area – just two of which have been referred to the Council’s solicitors for prosecution.
However, a spokesperson said it’s getting increasingly difficult to catch the offenders who are blighting the countryside with mainly domestic waste: ‘Those who illegally dump on a regular basis have become more aware of ensuring that they leave no material evidence identifying themselves, for example pizza boxes and other items have the delivery address removed, making it harder to detect and prosecute offenders.’
In the first eight months of the year, over 14 tonnes of material have been collected by the clean-up crew working in the West Cork Municipal District.
The material collected by the clean-up crew is typically domestic waste, but also includes electrical items which, incidentally, are accepted free of charge at the three Civic Amenity Sites in West Cork situated at Clonakilty, Castletownbere and Derryconnell, near Schull.
A spokesperson said: ‘The 14 tonnes does not include the litter that the various Area Offices would also have collected from community clean-ups, spring clean and other such events.’
Teddy Browne is the litter/waste disposal inspector who covers West Cork and investigates all complaints that are received in relation to illegal dumping, as well as working with local community groups and voluntary organisations.
Other resources available include a clean-up crew from the anti-litter unit based here which comprises staff from the Civic Amenity Sites who attend to the clean-up of illegal dumping and fly-tipping incidents on days when the sites are closed.
The spokesperson continued: ‘With regard to education and awareness raising, there is a considerable amount of work done in partnership with community groups such as tidy towns, Clean Coasts groups and other local volunteers.
‘A substantial amount of work is done as part of supporting and promoting the Green Schools initiative in West Cork with schools, being visited on a regular basis and ongoing contacts with school management teams and more.
‘Each year after the Tidy Towns judging reports are issued, they are reviewed, any litter issues are identified and thereafter, worked upon locally in advance of the following years competition.’
Other anti-litter Council initiatives include the clean-up and removal of marine litter with Coastwatch, local volunteers and the island communities, removal of end-of-life vehicles from the islands, and the arrangement of WEEE collection days throughout the year. However, Kate Treacy who runs The Puffin Café on Long Strand with her husband Spencer, feels there is still a lack of education when it comes to littering.
And specifically she is calling for more litter bins and the introduction of dog dirt bins in the area.
Praising the work of the nearby Rathbarry Tidy Towns Committee and inspector Teddy Browne, she described the situation as frustrating.
Originally from London, The Puffin Café only gives receipts if asked, and doesn’t sell water in plastic bottles.
‘We are trying to minimise the things that people can drop on the ground. As blow-ins we are just trying to do our bit but it’s a bit like trying to push an elephant up the stairs,’ said Kate.
Deirdre Hodnett, spokesperson for the award-winning Rathbarry Tidy Towns Committee said they felt that the battle against litter comes down to setting an example.
Awarded the title of Ireland’s Best Kept Town in 2017, she said: ‘If we teach our children to dispose of litter properly, then there will be no litter to pick up. We all want a clean, safe environment in which to live in. We all want to hear the birds singing in the trees and hear the bees buzzing as we walk along country roads – but birds can die from eating discarded chewing gum. We have a zero tolerance to litter in Rathbarry. Our motto is ‘don’t litter’ - then there’s nothing to pick up!’
A local restaurant owner is also battling the litter issue, while doing his own bit to protect the environment.
David O’Halloran of The Lifeboat Inn in Courtmacsherry is implementing the ‘Last Straw’ initiative which started in the US.
‘I was conscious of the fact that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our seas, and now that I am living in this beautiful little village beside the sea, I wanted to do my bit. I had heard about the Last Straw campaign, where they encourage bars and restaurants to stop using straws.’
David says it was started in America where they use 500 million straws every day which in turn makes its way to landfill or the sea. ‘So this one little step helps stop the use of plastic, but more importantly it just helps to raise this issue in a simple and quick way with my customers.’
Meanwhile, Diana Dodog and her partner Mike of the Gourmet Street Kitchen are trying to save the environment ‘one cup at a time.’
The innovative couple who operate their mobile business from Clonakilty Technology Park and Courtmacsherry, offer a 50 cent discount on all coffees – if customers bring their own cups.
‘In the Technology Park we have customers who have several coffees a day so we asked them if they’d consider bringing their own cups to avail of the discount and it’s been a huge success – at both locations,’ said Diana, former winner of Masterchef Ireland.
‘Some customers bring mugs from home, we supply benches for them to sit on and it just creates a different vibe.’
She explained that their cups and other packaging are compostable, supplied by city based, Down2Earth.
‘Our granola pots, for example, are made from sweetcorn. If you put any of our packaging in your compost bin, it will break down in around 10 weeks.’