CORK County is preparing for a busy summer. As restrictions are lifted and the public flocks to public places, our county is looking forward with confidence for the first time in 12 months.
We will be travelling across the length and breadth of the county to take in and enjoy the natural beauty on our doorstep, from our beaches to our hilltop walks, our towns to our villages. Our businesses, which have struggled for so long, can look forward to a steady stream of customers eager to sample the quality food and local produce that Cork is world renowned for.
As a proud Cork man, I know there is much to look forward to.
However, there is one thing that could ruin it for all of us, the scourge of litter.
I recently commented at a Council meeting that if I had my way, I would have no bins around the county. This comment surprised many and prompted a wider conversation into how we deal with litter. My statement reflected a long-held belief but was intentionally timed, as the following morning I joined the Mayor of County Cork Cllr Mary Linehan Foley in launching a new anti-litter campaign encouraging us all to ‘Be Sound, Be Proud’ this summer.
We only need bins because people generate waste as they go about their daily lives. Cork County Council provides nearly 1,000 of them, which are each serviced daily, sometimes twice a day. These bins are provided for the disposal of small items, such as chocolate wrappers and cigarette butts. They are not designed to accommodate large items, household waste, or the litter generated as a result of take-away outlets.
Even if Cork County Council doubled or tripled the number of bins available, the volume of rubbish generated would still be unmanageable.
As we look forward to a long-awaited summer, we will all generate litter in places away from our homes. We will enjoy a takeaway or a picnic on a beach, or a park. The providers of the takeway outlets we know will also assume some responsibility for disposing of the litter generated. As individuals, we too will take responsibility for the litter generated.
Our new anti-litter campaign carries a very simple message: dispose of your litter responsibly and help keep Cork clean.
If the bin is full please bring your rubbish home with you. When you are travelling to a location, think about how any litter you generate will be disposed of. This isn’t controversial, it’s a long-held practice of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Those who produce pollution should bear the costs of managing it to prevent damage to human health or the environment. We must all be responsible for our pollution production.
I believe that the majority of people who leave waste at our beauty spots do not act deliberately to ruin the experience of others. We all know what it is like to see large piles of rubbish piled high next to a bin. I’ve seen it first-hand myself. That creates an impression that will stay with future visitors and certainly not the impression we would like to portray. Several studies have shown there is a correlation between the presence of litter in a given area and the intentional littering of that particular spot. When a person sees litter accumulated in one place, it gives the impression that it is somehow acceptable to litter there.
Our Council staff work extremely hard to maintain these public spaces, but from speaking with them, I know how disheartening it is to turn a corner and see a mountain of waste that could easily have been dealt with. These are people who take pride in their job and pride in their place.
We also work with hundreds of community groups who take time out of their own busy lives to keep their area clean with the Council disposing of the litter collected. How disheartening it is for them to see the place littered the next day, something that’s totally unnecessary and just plain disrespectful.
I can say with confidence that the people who leave that litter would never do so on their own doorstep for their neighbours to see. There is an expectation that the waste generated while visiting these amazing locations is simply ‘someone else’s problem’. In reality, it was and always is yours. A simple act of bringing it home ensures the entire community will benefit. I am always fascinated by locations such as Gougane Barra National Park or Killarney National Park where there are few, if any, bins. Such is their unspoilt beauty that no-one leaves their litter behind.
What makes the beautiful Youghal Strand or Garretstown Beach any different? A small change in behaviour will make a big difference this summer.
One of the key features of our Summer campaign are unique ‘Corkisms’ signage, designed to encourage responsible litter disposal in a fun and friendly manner and capitalise on the enormous sense of pride evident across Cork County. As a Council we are also asking local businesses and communities to join us in the fight against litter this summer by assisting residents and visitors in keeping the county a litter-free zone.
I don’t want this request to be a dictate, but I don’t think what I’m say is anyway unreasonable either. I am simply asking everyone to please do the right thing. Dispose of your litter responsibly, be proud, be sound and lets all keep County Cork clean.