Festive food leftovers dumped in farm fields
Local authorities are being urged to tackle the annual increase in littering of the countryside that takes place in January - with cans, bottles, used wrapping paper and even the leftovers of Christmas dinners being dumped.
Thomas Cooney of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has called for more severe sanctions on serial dumpers and changes to legislation so that farmers are no longer held legally responsible for reckless dumping by others.
"Recent reports indicate that packaging waste generated from online shopping will increase by 33pc this year to 10,000 tonnes," he said.
"The fact is that this will lead to increased dumping by passing motorists who have no regard for our rural countryside. And it's time to get tough with these people."
Mr Cooney said the on-the-spot fines for littering introduced this year have not worked.
"We need increased enforcement action by local authorities, as well as tougher sentences and penalties for large scale serial dumpers.
"Local authorities must begin a post-Christmas anti-littering blitz to ensure Ireland's countryside is no longer used as a dumping ground," he said.
In a recent meeting with Environment Minister for State Seán Canney, the IFA also called for changes to existing litter legislation.
It wants the removal of the current threat of fines and prosecution of farmers on whose land others dump litter.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, said recently that illegal dumping is a matter of individual responsibility and compliance with the law. He said that while enforcement in this area is a matter for local authorities, his Department is to review its Anti-Dumping Initiative.
This review will inform a 2019 anti-dumping work programme that will place an increased emphasis on those who facilitate the unauthorised movement and disposal of waste.
The 2017 National Litter Pollution Report showed that the main elements of litter pollution were cigarette-related litter at 56pc, followed by packaging, food-related and sweet-related litter.
Passing pedestrians were found to be the main causes of litter, accounting for 42pc, substantially ahead of passing motorists, who were the second largest cause, accounting for 19pc in 2017.
Separately Minister Bruton has announced a plan to eradicate single use plastics across the public sector ahead of a Europe-wide clampdown.
The ban would apply to all Government departments, State agencies, schools and hospitals - although medical exemptions would apply.
Earlier this year the European Parliament backed legislation which will ban single-use plastic items where alternatives exist, including cutlery, plates, drinks stirrers and cotton buds by 2021.
A proposed law which will ban the sale and manufacture of plastic micro beads is also expected to be passed in the coming year.