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Councillor Ann Norton

Proposal to tackle takeaway littering fried by legal issues

Motion to compel food businesses to affix car registrations to food bags likely to fall foul of GDPR

A PROPOSAL to oblige Ennis takeaways put the car registration on bags of food ordered from them in a bid to tackle illegal dumping would appear to have had its chips.
A meeting of the Ennis Municipal District has heard there is no legislative basis for the plan, proposed by Councillor Ann Norton, while concerns about GDPR were also highlighted.
Councillor Norton had urged that the local authority to investigate the possibility of putting the registration of the car on the bag at takeaways and drive-thrus.
“When it’s tossed out the window, it can be delivered back to its owners with a fine for littering. This could be a pilot project to deter people from littering,” she proposed.
Responding to the motion, Cyril Feeney, senior engineer, stated, “I note the merits of introducing such a scheme but unfortunately I do not believe there is a legislative basis under the Waste Management Act or Litter Pollution Act upon which we could compel vendors to affix vehicle registrations to takeaway bags.
“I would also be mindful of GDPR legislation whereby vehicle registrations would be classed as personal information and the Takeaway vendors would have no lawful basis for requesting that information from their customers.
“We will continue to work with the Regional Waste Management Office and REPAK in order to reduce the amount of food packaging put on the market in general.”
Councillor Norton stated she was “surprised” at the response saying this proposal represented an opportunity for the council’s environmental section to prevent illegal dumping.
“Unfortunately because of Covid more people are accessing take-aways and drive-thrus because restaurants are not open, and they will be in even more demand over the next couple of months. It’s an awful shame our streets will be littered.”
She continued by saying she cannot understand why the council cannot use number plate registrations “to find out who is using our countryside as a bin”.
“This is a huge opportunity for us to prevent littering, the last thing we need to see is more rubbish dumped on the side of the road.”
Seconding the motion, Councillor Clare Colleran Molloy stated that she expected the response as she criticised the “insurmountable barrier” of GDPR. She applauded the councillor for her effort at “creatively trying to address what seems to be the never-ending scourge of littering and illegal dumping”.
She said that Ireland is “extremely tolerant in the manner in which we are protecting what I call eco-criminals” who “just use the environment as their own dumping ground”.
Councillor Pat Daly also gave his backing for the move saying the council should do “anything we can to stop people littering”. He said he sees people littering the streets after leaving take-aways on a daily basis. “There are litter bins there and all they would have to do is walk over.”
He urged that the county’s Oireachtas members make the case for legislation which would allow this proposal.
Councillor Colleran Molloy added that she has not personally witnessed littering first hand but when she did, she planned to take it up with the offender. “I will go and say something. This is what I believe we have to start doing, we have to take ownership and say what you are doing is wrong.”
Councillor Daly stated that he has often asked people to clean up their litter. Councillor Norton stated that those who stand up to illegal littering can be on the receiving end of “abuse”.
“Unfortunately I have seen rubbish left on the ground and people not picking up after their dog has fouled and when you ask them to remove it, unfortunately you don’t get a very positive response.
“I think it’s up to us to come up with initiatives that are unusual to try and find ways to prevent people from dumping.”
She paid tribute to the many volunteers who work to keep the town and its environs looking clean and tidy. “It must be very disheartening for people who do this day in and day out because other people have no respect for their communities and the volunteers who are doing the work.”
She described as “unbelievable” the rubbish that was found during a recent clean up by Barefield Tidy Towns, including “underwear and garments people could have put in recycling bins”.
“It’s not a nice thing to ask people to pick up, but we are proud of our community and we want to keep it clean and tidy. This is very much a tourist area and we have to keep encouraging people to respect the area and try and keep our town, county and country clean.”
She stressed the importance of bringing forward new ideas to deter littering, pointing out government funding is being made available for initiatives.
Leonore O’Neill, senior executive officer, stated that Clare County Council and the environment section will continue to work towards education people and reducing the level of waste being produced within the maximum remit that is available to the authority.

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