Why Cork people need to change their littering habits

Cork County Council launched an Anti Dumping Campaign recently. Here the council’s Head of Waste Enforcement, Eleanor Lehane, and Director of Service Environment Louis Duffy, tell us more about the campaign
Why Cork people need to change their littering habits
Cork County Council's Environment Department are running an Anti-Dumping Awareness Initiative, a targeted media campaign which aims to promote long term behavioural change and to reduce incidents of littering across Cork County.Picture. John Allen

IN 2018 Cork County Council responded to 2,422 incidents of littering and dumping across the county, issued 502 litter fines, took more than 750 waste enforcement actions, provided over 11,000 hours of CCTV surveillance at dumping black-spots and collected more than 100 tonnes of litter.

Aiming to highlight the important role everybody plays in tackling this issue, the Council’s Environment Department are running an Anti-Dumping Awareness Initiative, a targeted media campaign which aims to promote long term behavioural change and to reduce incidents of littering across Cork County. Here Louis Duffy and Eleanor Lehane tells us more...

Louis Duffy, Director of Service Environment

Cork County Council has demonstrated its commitment to tackling litter by hosting an environmental awareness event in Vertigo. Community groups, councillors and members of the press attended an event aimed at raising awareness around how we engage with the environment.

Littering and fly-tipping presents many challenges. Litter is dangerous to wildlife, public health and damages our tourism offering.

In 2018 Cork County Council took in almost €70,000 in fines and court awarded costs, which comes nowhere near offsetting the costs we incurred in tackling litter and illegal dumping. In 2018 alone, €3.8 million was spent on street cleaning, litter warden services and public awareness litter prevention initiatives. This cost does not take into account the toll on the economy and environment caused by this kind of pollution in our county.

It’s sad to say, but we will never have a county without litter. There will always be people who lack awareness, civic pride, or consideration. Our goal is to promote awareness and support civic pride to improve the cleanliness throughout Cork.

Head of Waste Enforcement Eleanor Lehane:

One of our greatest tools in tackling littering is awareness. It is fair to say that most people are appalled to see rubbish strewn along roadsides, piled in the corners of fields or parks, or rolling around the streets of our towns. These same people may not be aware of how they contribute to this!

Cork County Council’s environmental awareness office has recently launched a campaign to draw attention to the ways that well intentioned people can slip up their duty to the environment and adherence to the law. As an example, we called attention to littering at bring banks, where people leave bottles, cans, etc, in front of or in the vicinity of the bins or banks. The environmental harm is just as bad at the site as it would be on the side of a road, presenting a hazard to people and animals, and creating an unsightly mess.

Other examples include hiring an unlicensed waste collector, or disposing of cigarette butts from car windows. While these examples seem less severe than emptying bins onto the road, these actions have the same cumulative effect and they can all lead to significant environmental impact.

Although enforcement is one tool in our arsenal which helps to deter offenders, it’s not enough by itself. Cork County Council is responsible for an area larger than some countries, and we do not have the resources to guarantee 100% detection or to find the perpetrators of every instance by ourselves. By raising awareness we hope to help people understand their responsibility in preventing littering. W

e are also hugely dependant on the public for detecting and reporting incidents of littering. Having members of the public report on instances of littering and illegal dumping is vital to our work in keeping Cork clean.

Louis Duffy, Director of Service Environment

Cork has a lot to be proud of when it comes to fighting litter. County Cork is consistently well represented in the high achievers in Tidy Towns competitions and environmental groups are well recognised in various community awards. We must credit the communities of County Cork. A strong sense of civic pride is one of the greatest resources in fighting littering and illegal dumping and the people of County Cork have it in spades.

We in the council have a responsibility to support and to harness this resource. Making Cork a cleaner, more environmentally friendly, and safer place to live is not something we can do by ourselves. Community partnership is vital to us. Throughout County Cork, there are individuals and groups who freely give a considerable amount of their time towards preserving and enhancing their local area through litter picking, beach cleaning, and other positive environmental activities.

The Awards Night of the Cork County Anti Litter Challenge took place the day after our environmental awareness event. Communities from all over the County were represented in what is Ireland’s Oldest Anti Litter Competition. The initiative, which began 23 years ago, is focused solely on litter, meaning that any community with volunteers willing to collect litter have a chance of winning.

Providing a fun competition with cash prizes is one way that we in the council support and encourage community groups throughout Cork. The reality is that without these groups, we would not be able to maintain the standard of cleanliness that we have throughout the county.

Success breeds success. A victory by a community encourages more people to get involved and having a tidy environment helps build a sense of community pride and engagement. Running awareness campaigns countywide and encouraging and supporting active communities is our two pronged approach to fighting littering, illegal dumping and promoting a healthy and sustainable environment.

To report littering or illegal dumping contact the council’s anti-litter unit at 021 4285417 (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) or alternatively call the 24-hour National Environmental Complaints Line on 1850 365 121.

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