Clean up volunteers Larry O'Gorman, Alan Moore, Siobhan Burke and Rosemary Ponsonby.
More than thirty residents in the Sladagh, Drumdeel, and Grove area turned out in force on a mercifully dry and bright Saturday morning to clean up their verges and roadsides.
The annual event has been running for more than ten years but the problem of littering and dumping is unfortunately getting worse, they say.
Over forty bags of rubbish were retrieved and some larger items including a TV set and a washing machine were also removed from hedgerows and ditches. This collection was from approximately one kilometre of road side and was dumped in the last six months since the Co. Council organised a contractor to clean the area.
The bags were loaded into local man Pat Brett’s trailer and conveyed to a central spot from where Jimmy Horan, Fethard County Council, organised for removal and disposal.
In the social gathering for coffee and cake at Joe and Siobhan Burke’s house after the clean-up, a discussion took place about the scourge of littering and dumping, and the urgent need for innovative solutions to a problem that threatens our environment and our tourist industry, as well as simply reducing the quality of life for all who witness our beautiful countryside despoiled with burst bags of household waste and used nappies etc.
Despite the welcome involvement of the Council Environment Department members, Matt Peters and David Corbett, who have installed CCTV cameras along dumping hotspots and who have successfully prosecuted some culprits using painstaking detective methods, there is a sense that much more needs to be done not only at a local level, but at a county and national policy level.
The sheer volume of rubbish collected in this area alone suggests that hundreds of thousands of tons are being dumped nationally, with only a proportion being reclaimed by councils and volunteers. It is abundantly clear that a significant element in our society are not prepared to pay for bins or to go to recycling centres, and at present are getting away with their filthy habits to the detriment of all.
There is also a serious concern that imminent pay by weight charges will worsen dumping of household waste, a worry which is underlined by the increase in such items as nappies noted by our volunteers this year.
It would seem that are two main types of littering behaviour. One is the disposing of drinks bottles, cans and wrappers from moving cars. One-hundred percent of this material is recyclable at a rate of one euro per bag at Council run centres such as Carrigeen or Clonmel Waste on the Cashel road.
The other behaviour is the deliberate bringing to the countryside of bags of household rubbish by individuals who choose to avoid payment for bins or legal disposal. There is also a third phenomenon whereby items such as fridges, TVs and cookers, which can all be recycled free, are dumped.
So the current system is not working, and fresh thinking is required. Some suggestions aired by the Sladagh/Drumdeel group included: piloting a money back system on bottles and cans in Co Tipperary, with buy-in from the drinks industry; more personnel and thus enforcement from the environment department of the Council; a monthly amnesty for rubbish in the form of skips provided at key locations (the cost would be offset by savings in rubbish retrieval from the countryside); media campaigns to highlight the antisocial nature of dumping with sporting or other celebrities highlighting good citizenship; and local politicians to embrace this issue and show leadership in driving change.
This year’s collection was approximately ten percent more than last year.