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Clare members debate return to Council-led waste collection

THE link between illegal dumping and the management of waste collection by local authorities was debated at the July meeting of the local authority, on foot of a motion from Councillor Donna McGettigan.
The Sinn Féin member called on the council to bring domestic waste collection back under its control in a bid to curb the widespread problem of fly-tipping. While a number of councillors were supportive of the motion, the Chief Executive sounded a note of caution and advised members to “think long and hard” about the implications and the effectiveness of such a move.
Outlining the motion, Councillor McGettigan said she accepted the significant costs that would be involved in the authority running domestic waste collection once again. “We are among the only states where collection is fully privatised,” she said. “We could look at a franchise model which works well in other countries.”
Seconding the call, Councillor Gerry Flynn said the service, which had previously been provided by the authority, had been fantastic. “We were told it couldn’t make money,” he said. “Commercial operators are able to, however. It seems it was a retrograde move for us to abolish council collection of domestic waste.”
Councillor Ian Lynch said that he supported the sentiment of the motion and asked if it should be forwarded to central government. “Waste management could be a great source of revenue and an opportunity for councils to generate money,” he said. The Independent member also expressed the view that the approach to ensuring people could prove they are legally disposing of household waste had been “slightly lax”.
Councillor Michael Begley voiced his concerns over the motion and agreed with Councillor Lynch’s comments on monitoring domestic waste disposal. “We don’t enforce the rules on the disposal of domestic waste,” he asserted. “We were to use Eircodes and we should focus on that. Some local authorities have a waiver system and we should seriously examine those.”
Councillor Cillian Murphy said he broadly supported the thrust of the motion. “If we are prepared to do due diligence on taking over Shannon Heritage, we should be prepared to look at this,” he said. “I would like to see data saying that cost is a factor in fly-tipping, though. When it comes to disposing of waste legally, there are people who just don’t want to do it, fully stop. That leaves the public purse picking up the cost of non-compliance with private sector operators.”
In relation to moves to check households’ systems of waste disposal, the Fianna Fáil member said: “We should have the addresses of everyone who is paying, so that we can identify them. No doubt, we’d be stepping into the biggest GDPR issue on the planet, but there should be some quid pro quo with the private sector so that we can make sure people are disposing of waste legally.”
Chief Executive Pat Dowling sounded a note of caution on the prospect of returning to council waste collection. “I have some experience of the removal of services from the local authority in a neighbouring county,” he said.
“We would need to think long and hard before rushing anything. Illegal dumping comes back to some peoples’ personal behaviour and it’s not acceptable. Waste collection would be a difficult space for us to get into. We would need to debate it long and hard. It’s not a panacea for illegal dumping.”
A written response from Senior Engineer Cyril Feeney outlined how government policy over the last three decades had led to the privatisation of domestic waste collection. “It is not currently envisaged that local authorities would re-enter the waste collection service industry,” the reply said. “There would be significant capital and operational costs required for the local authority to engage in such an activity in an already very competitive private sector market.”
Mr Feeney’s written reply added that, “equally there is no evidence to suggest that a local authority collection service would alleviate illegal dumping which occurs across the country. Illegal waste activity is primarily driven by undercutting whatever the market rate that exists for waste collection and also by individuals who refuse to dispose of their waste in a responsible, legal manner. Unfortunately this would not change with a local authority-led service.”
Responding, Councillor McGettigan agreed the matter needed to be looked at carefully and said that it might be an issue to consult central government on.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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