Thursday 17 October 2019

Council urged to practice what it preached on litter management

Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF)
Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF)

Bill Browne

Cork County Council is going against all best practise methods for the disposal of rubbish by dumping all of the unsegregated litter collected from public bins directly into landfill.

That's according to Mallow-based Cllr Gearóid Murphy (FF) who, in a motion placed before Monday's full meeting of the authority, urged the council to put in place a network of segregated public litter bins with separate sections for general waste and recyclables. 

He said the idea for the motion came from a recent public meeting of Mallow Tidy Towns, at which is was pointed out that the town fell down the competitions most recent marking scale in the 'sustainability' category. 

He said that the disposal of non-segregated litter into landfill "went against any conception of a commitment to sustainability on the part of the council". 

Responding to Cllr Murphy's motion Louis Duffy,  the council's director of environment and emergency services, cited a number of difficulties with such an initiative, including the potential abuse of such a network and the cost of putting it in place. 

"The litter bin service is the subject of constant abuse where general waste is disposed in them, filling them at a rate that makes then unavailable for their intended collection of litter," said Mr Duffy. 

He said that as a consequence of this, areas around bins can often become "littered and unsightly" and it was for this reason that the authority was "reluctant" to provide additional bins and in some areas had actually been left with no option but to remove existing ones. 

Mr Duffy said that in addition to resulting in a "significant" increase in costs for their management, segregated bins could also increase the risk of recyclable materials being contaminated by other forms of waste. 

However, he did say the matter would be brought to the attention of the Regional Waste Management Planning office to see is there were any segregated bin networks currently in operation and if so report back on their effectiveness. 

Replying to Mr Duffy's comments, Cllr Murphy pointed out that segregated public litter bins happened "as a matter of course" in other European country's. 

"With this in mind, there is no reason why it should be impractical in Cork. I would also contend that any risk of contamination was surely better that the current situation where no waste at all from public litter bins is recycled," said Cllr Murphy. 

He said it was incumbent on the Council to practise what it preached when it came to waste management. 

"How can we hope to encourage a change in attitude and culture towards sustainability among the general public when we as a Council do not provide for it in our own services," he said. 

Cllr Murphy's motion gained the support of a number of Council colleagues, with some pointing out a litter segregation programme was already in operation in Clonakilty. 

County mayor Cllr Gerard Patrick Murphy said he hoped this would be an important factor in deciding if a similar programme could be rolled out countywide.