A local county councillor has described as ‘farcical’ Kilkenny’s existing waste management plan and any future plan that does not incorporate a proper audit of every household in the county.
Cllr Michael O’ Brien (Labour) says the Joint Waste Management plan for the Southeast is ‘a joke’, because the local authorities have no real idea of which households are signed up to waste collection services, or what the other households are doing with their waste. He says that this knowledge is essential to tackling illegal dumping and reducing costs.
The councillor made his views heard at Monday’s meeting of Kilkenny County Council, where senior engineer Carol McCarthy briefed the members on the 2006-2011 plan, and recommendations for a new replacement plan. It likely that Kilkenny will eventually form part of a much large ‘souther region’, under the new plan.
But Cllr O’ Brien says Kilkenny should have no part in it.
“This is a joke – if we don’t have the information on this and we don’t know who’s complying, it’s a waste of time,” he said.
“I think we should opt out of this. You are codding people that we have a handle on waste management when we don’t.
“Until there is a proper audit done, I think we should seriously consider withdrawing from this farcical waste management policy.”
The most recent figure of households not availing of collection services is 39%. That percentage, from 2010, comes from the council asking the various private operators for figures and then subtracting from the overall number of Kilkenny households.
It is impossible to know how many of these householders have other arrangements, such as using the Dunmore disposal facility, or how many engage in illicit waste disposal.
“Some houses may be vacant, some people may share bins, so this does not mean that nearly 40% are illegally dumping,” said Ms McCarthy.
“But it has been a growing concern ever since local authorities around the country have privatised services.”
New legislation is currently being drafted to address this. Ms McCarthy said it was hoped it will include a stipulation that householders would have to account for where their waste goes if it is not being collected.
“We hope it will allow us to get tougher and ask people where there waste is going,” she said.
Cllr Sean Treacy (FF) said that the cost of private waste collection was pricing many people out of the service.
“Some companies are charging over e400 a year, and so many people are just stopping paying it,” he said.
“I see houses that used to have bins out that now do not. So I would like to see some standardisation or comparison of cost.”
Cllr Mary Hilda Cavanagh (FG) said illegal dumping was as bad as ever, and renewed an appeal for more mobile cameras to catch out offenders. Her party colleague, Cllr Tom Maher agreed.
“I concur with Cllr Cavanagh – this is replicated in every parish across the county,” he said.
“There is a pattern of dumping, and you know where it will be; it is the same sacks, on the same days – cans and bottles. And the galling thing is, we have the facilities in every town and vilalge to recycle all this material for free.
“We need enforcement, and these people should be named and shamed. The situation has not improved.”
In response, Ms McCarthy said that a number of covert cameras were in operation, and that several illegal dumpers had been spotted. She said a number of files had been sent for prosecution which were due up soon.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Green Party) also proposed that a scheme be introduced where people could be reimbursed for returning their cans and bottles to a particular centre. He said this could be a source of revenue for the local community, as well as contributing to a tidier county.