National shame: the scourge of illegal dumping

Illegal dumping is rife as criminal operators continue to dump huge amounts of rubbish in the countryside, but farmers and environmental groups are fighting back

Blight: an isolated upland area in Co Wicklow targeted by dumping gangs
Blight: an isolated upland area in Co Wicklow targeted by dumping gangs

Ken Whelan

Urgent government action to deal with illegal fly tipping of domestic rubbish in countryside has been demanded by farmers and environmentalists.

The level of dumping is significant especially in upland regions. To date this year, the PURE (Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments) environmental group has retrieved over 199 tonnes of illegally dumped refuse so far in the Wicklow-Dublin uplands this year alone.

The group, which runs its own truck to retrieve the dumped waste and has a lo-call number to help farmers targeted by this illegal dumping, have had over 800 call outs this year.

Since its inception in 2008, PURE has lifted over 2,600 tonnes of illegal waste from the Wicklow-Dublin uplands, project manager Ian Davis told the Farming Independent, saying the final figure for 2015 is likely to be a record.

Chris Fox, a dairy farmer and independent Wicklow county councillor from Kilmacanogue, said that farmers and landowners in the region were dealing with huge quantities of dumped rubbish on an almost a daily basis.

"Vans and car loads of rubbish are being deposited by these illegal operators and by 'drive by dumpers' at farm gates," said Cllr Fox. "I had to recycle five bags of stuff which were pitched on my farm a few weeks ago by someone who obviously just stopped his car nearby and fired them onto the land.

"The dumpers just pull up and unload their waste without a care for the damage they are doing to the landowners' property and the tourism industry in the area.

"A neighbour of mine recently had the contents of a whole kitchen dumped on his farm. It's a constant battle with the dumpers for farmers whose lands are targeted on an almost daily basis.

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"These operators take skips of rubbish from house owners, who pay good money to get the stuff taken away, to what they believe are legal dumps but these illegal operators just drive into the countryside and pitch the stuff all over the place.


"They pick remote rural roads to unload the stuff in the sure knowledge that there will be no gardai or litter inspectors around. "New legislation has to be introduced to deal with the problem," added Cllr Fox.

Donie Anderson, an upland sheep farmer in Glenasmole, says that most of this environmental vandalism is being carried out by gangs who know the area well.

"They are on country roads and they wait until there are no car lights to be seen and then unload their cargo," he explained.

"We are very conscious of dumping in the upland areas.

"It's bad enough having to deal with dogs frightening my sheep without have to deal with these illegal gangs and the casual dumpers," he added.

Similar dumping activities are widespread throughout other parts of the county, including Laois and Kildare where watercourses are being affected by the illegal dumping.

Billy Gray, a tillage and beef farmer from Rathangan in Kildare, said fly tipping is widespread at farms and around Bord na Mona bogs.

"I recently saw 25 bin bags and a refrigerator dumped near a Bord na Mona premises over near the Bog of Allen. It's a typical load. And the dumpers simply don't care.

"They know that Bord na Mona or the local authority will take the stuff away and then they come back again.

"Another local place for the dumpers is Pluckerstown where even small local rivers get clogged up with this illegal waste. Over in Carbury it has got to the stage where they dump their waste close to the local recycling plant. The current level of detection and prohibition is not working and something urgently has to be done by the Government to tackle the problem."

Local authorities are fighting a losing battle

Tackling illegal dumping  is the responsibility of the local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) but despite efforts being made their success in dealing with the problem throughout the countryside is mixed to judge by the latest statistics for 2014 from the EPA.

There is an 'on the spot fines' regime in place for fly tipping but successful prosecution rates are very low when compared to the levels of dumping in the countryside which is being reported to the authorities.

The enforcement agencies have noticed that much of the fly tipping which occurs in the countryside does not contain the level of evidence required to mount a successful prosecution with identifying material such as envelopes removed.

The 2014 statistics show that in Co Wexford there were 203 'on the spot' fines issued but only 61 paid, while in Louth there were 485 fines issued and only 166 paid.

In Kilkenny, the figures show there were 215 issued (129 paid); Meath 652 (225 paid); Limerick combined 754 (262 paid); Kildare 665 (332); Cavan 211 (80 paid); Meath 652 (225 paid); Sligo 71 (33 paid); Longford 343 (142 paid); Kerry 82 issued (44 paid).

The level of prosecutions by the local authorities differs and the conviction rate varies widely nationwide.

For example, Kildare took 37 cases, winning 20; Limerick combined 106 cases (58 wins); Wexford 47 cases (15 wins); Carlow 10 cases (5 wins); Galway 18 cases (2 wins); Laois 32 cases (11 wins); North Tipperary 18 cases (3 wins); Westmeath 11 cases (0 wins) and Kerry 9 cases (0 wins).

By contrast Louth took 15 prosecutions and won all their cases as did Kilkenny with eight prosections.

Penalties under the Litter Pollution Act range from'on the spot fines' of between €150 and €3, 000 on summary conviction and up to €130,000 on conviction on indictment.

The fines for continuing offences are €600 a day for summary offences and €10, 000 a day for indictable offences.

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