RIGHT: The litter problem can be so bad that communities are taking matters into their own hands – this photo is from Multyfarnham in March of this year.

Income from litter fines rises

Initiatives to encourage people to dispose of mattresses, baby toys and equipment, old paint and sitting room suites responsibly have proved successful and hopefully, will be repeated next year, head of finance, Jimmy Dalton announced at the annual estimates meeting of Westmeath County Council.

Cllr Emily Wallace welcomed the allocation of €45,000 for such litter control initiatives, but wondered if it was enough. She suggested that the council needed to look at more creative and sustainable ways to manage litter.

Cllr Aoife Davitt said that it was time to stamp out littering and pollution of where we live.

Mr Dalton agreed that the council was being reactive to the litter issue, but what should they do. He agreed that there is "a hell of a lot of money going on litter, because there is a hell of a lot of it out there".

"No one wants this litter, but we have to pick it up," he said.

He revealed that income from litter fines is expected to top €15,000 this year and €17,000 next year – an indication that it was headed in the right direction.

Mr Dalton said that reverse vending machines could help alleviate the amount of collecting that has to be done. We need to get our priorities right as to where to spend money for the good of the county, he added.

Martin Murray, director of services, said that the council is trying to be proactive in its fight against litter through the Green Schools Programme. The reality, he said, is that once someone pays their fixed penalty notice for dumping, they cannot be taken to court.

In 2018, 134 fines were issued. The numbers are up this year because of CCTV and the identification of hot spots.

Mr Murray said that people were misusing bottle banks. The council has increased the frequency with the contractors for emptying recycling bins, especially the clothes recycling bins. The litter wardens and three community wardens are also tackling the litter problem.