Frank Stafford, Senior Engineer for the Environment, Climate Action and Parks Section in Kilkenny County Council (Photograph by Vicky Comerford)
Frank Stafford grew up in Graiguenamanagh and after studying in Edinburgh he returned to Kilkenny (1994) to begin employment with Kilkenny Borough Council as a student, before returning the following year as a graduate engineer.
Fast forward to today, Frank is married to Maria since 2000 and they have three children Eoghan 15, Orla 13, and Frankie 12.
Frank is the Senior Engineer for the Environment, Climate Action and Parks Section in Kilkenny Council and I met up with him this week to chat about the launch of Kilkenny Waste Awareness Week.
Here is a glimpse into Frank’s world…
Frank what does the job of a Senior Engineer in the Council involve?
I work with a very dedicated team of people in both the Environment and Parks Section and I’m lucky that my work is very varied. The team and I are responsible for the management of over 30 playgrounds across the city and county. Along with the management of public green spaces and parks, extending to in excess of 90 acres.
One of the main tasks within the Environment Section is to develop and agree an approved yearly Inspection Plan with the EPA. This plan sets-down annual targets of approximately 2,000 planned inspections by our Environment Officers of facilities and enterprises - whose air, noise, water and waste management activities are subject to regulation under EU law.
The management of Dunmore Civic Amenity Site and the other 46 recycling services around the city and county also come under the remit of the Environment Section, as does the legislation for the control of horses and dogs. This includes the Carlow Kilkenny Dog Shelter of which I’m glad to say had significant enhancement works undertaken earlier this year to improve the visitor experience by allowing visitors the time and space to interact with a dog they are considering to rehome, so I look forward to the Shelter being re-opened fully to the public once restrictions around covid-19 allow us to do so.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Climate Change. It is probably the biggest challenge facing us as a society. Ireland is at the beginning of a long and difficult process in transitioning to a low-carbon, climate resilient and environmentally sustainable economy. It is a challenge that our Chief Executive, Management Team and Elected Members want Kilkenny to be a frontrunner in effecting change in mitigation and adaptation.
You are also known for turning a negative into a positive! Tell us about the new Biodiversity and Recreational Park coming to Dunmore.
I don’t know about that Siobhan, but we are currently working on a very exciting project to develop a biodiversity and recreational countryside park on the site of the now closed municipal landfill at Dunmore.
This closed landfill site occupies an area of circa. 17 acres and is located just 5km north of Kilkenny city centre. In general landfill sites are seen as negative and we are proposing to transform this space into a real oasis for both people and wildlife.
The proposal incorporates trails for uses such as walking, running and orienteering. A dog friendly enclosed area is also planned. Our overall ambition is to create a parkland that will create a destination for health and wellbeing, attracting fitness and outdoor enthusiasts of all abilities, nature lovers and educational providers.
Another key objective of the proposal is to create connectivity back into the city along the River Nore Linear Park and onwards to the Nore Valley walking trail, in turn creating a key element in the Kilkenny City and Environs Green Infrastructure offering.
It's Kilkenny Awareness Week, so I have to ask are Kilkenny households good at recycling?
Siobhan, two thirds of households now avail of a waste collection service and we are especially proud of the uptake of the third bin service for food waste.
Back in 2017, the uptake was low at 16% but with the introduction of the waste presentation bye-laws and a lot of work by our Environment team, liaising with local waste collection operators and promoting it locally, that figure has increased to 90% for those households within urban areas greater than 500 people using a collection service.
Households with a three-bin system can separate out their food waste from their general rubbish and recycling allowing it to be collected for composting. For households using a bin service within these areas it is compulsory to use a brown bin.
What are you hoping to achieve with Kilkenny Waste Awareness Week?
The week is an excellent opportunity to highlight the services the Council provides, we are eager to see the Dunmore Recycling Centre promotion video which the southern waste region office commissioned, featuring our own recycling centre manager, Alan Rhatigan.
While we strive to improve the waste management services across the county we also have a role to promote best waste management practices and promote reliable information resources that can assist households to manage their waste better like mywaste.ie. This is Ireland’s official guide to managing your waste. It’s a brilliant resource and we will be highlighting this platform throughout the week.
How much of a rise have you seen in household waste since the Pandemic?
We have seen a huge increase at our 46 bring centres across the county. Glass, aluminium drink cans and steel food cans have increased 49% on the same period last year which has kept our section busy ensuring the collection schedule meets with the demand and that the bring centres themselves are kept nice and clean.
Activity at the Dunmore Civic Amenity Site has also increased with customer numbers up 13.5% since mid-March compared to 2019 figures, with over 61,000 customers availing of this facility this year to-date. The tonnage of waste and recycling material collected at the facility has also increased by 12% since mid-March, with over 2,477 tonnes of waste and 1,248 tonnes of Recycling material collected.
If a household learnt one thing this week, what are you hoping that will be?
Kilkenny County Council is working hard for our local community and it would be fantastic if everyone could take on personal responsibility for their waste. Huge financial resources are put into the clean-up of illegal dumping annually. This is public money that could be put to much better use such as providing additional playgrounds or creating new public spaces.
Waste management doesn’t have to be expensive and facilities like Dunmore Recycling Centre provides a cost-effective solution. This week will illustrate easy and cost-effective steps which can be taken to manage waste economically.
We are talking about a minority here, in general the people of Kilkenny are doing very well with waste management. Especially in receiving the Irish Business against Litter Award five times.
Absolutely Siobhan, the vast majority of the people who live in Kilkenny are very proud of their county and take great pride in all the accolades the county wins, whether that’s on the hurling pitch or our achievements in national competitions such as Tidy Towns, Pride of Place and as you say the Irish Business Against Litter Awards.
Last month Kilkenny City was once again deemed the cleanest of 40 towns and cities surveyed by the business group, topping the IBAL litter rankings for a record 5th time with adjudicators noting that “Again Kilkenny comes up shining!”.
There is so much good and positive work being done by so many people and voluntary organisations. So I’m really appealing to the tiny, but persistent, minority who litter and dump waste indiscriminately, or people who use unauthorised operators to take away their waste, to stop and think about the negative impact their individual actions are having on their neighbours, communities and county.
When Frank Stafford takes a day off, what do you do?
For my down time, and of course being from Graig, I am drawn to the river and love nothing better than a swim with family and friends in the River Barrow at the Boy’s Sandy in Graig or further up-stream in Clashganny.
I love the outdoors and I am a keen gardener and have tried my hand growing vegetables, with mixed success, but found keeping a few hens less time consuming and more productive!
I keenly follow a lot of sports, including hurling (of course), rugby and soccer and was still, just about, managing to play 5 a-side football a few times a week prior to the introduction of the Level 5 restrictions.
Another big passion of mine is good food and it’s not lost on me how lucky we are in Kilkenny to have such a wonderful variety of high-quality food producers, restaurants, cafes and pubs that cater for every occasion and of course by supporting local you also get that automatic feel good bonus factor.
So, I’m looking forward to the current restrictions being lifted so I can return to some of my favourite haunts!
Kilkenny Waste Awareness Week runs until November 27. Further information is available on kilkennycoco.ie, Facebook: @KilkennyCoCo, Instagram: kilkennycoco & Twitter: @KilkennyNotices