THE LITTER CONUNDRUM

15 December 2014 No Comments by The Northern Standard

One of the irresolvable conundrums of life in Co Monaghan is that, given our conspicuous level of achievement in Tidy Towns competitions and the widespread evidence of community pride in place, the problem of littering should continue to be such a massive drain on local authority resources and a highly visible blight on many of our highways and byways.

Street-cleaning costs – estimated by Sinn Féin Co Councillor Pat Treanor during the recent Budget discussions of the authority as being close to €1,000 per day – eat up a great deal of the finite finance at the disposal of local government that could be better spent on projects of community enhancement.

The connect between the irresponsible attitude of individuals to litter disposal and the cost to society as a whole, both in terms of dealing with the problem and the deficit that arises in other areas of social provision as a result, is not a very difficult one to make, but a strong mental resistance to it seems to persist.

Changing the mindset of the public towards casual littering seems to be key to the resolution of the problem, and it is not surprising that a greater emphasis is often placed on education rather than enforcement by those agencies charged with finding a solution.

Given the ubiquity of anti-litter programmes, and the claim often made that the message is getting across to our young people in particular, it seems remarkable that the problem in many of its most ugly manifestations shows no signs of abating.

The value of our litter education programmes might well be reaped in the long-term – more immediately, more stringent regimes of enforcement and penalty seem required.

One possible solution advocated at the recent Co Council meeting was the expansion of the CCTV monitoring used by the local authority to gather evidence of illegal dumping and refuse disposal that would ground prosecution of offenders through the courts.

While no panacea in its practical application, the “caught on camera” threat might have some degree of deterrent value – if its placement and usage was forcefully conveyed to motorists along the bypasses and national road routes of the county, it might go some way to disabusing those drivers who cavalierly discard spent food containers and other detritus from the windows of their vehicles of their highly objectionable habits.

More low-key deployment of detection cameras is required to address the dumping of various quantities of household waste along roadsides and in secluded country areas, with inevitable limitations. Detection becomes a chancy, “cat and mouse” affair and if the location of cameras becomes known, the effect of its presence is sometimes only to migrate the problem to another unobserved location.

The cohort of people who do not use waste disposal services to deal with their household litter but who get shot of it by such stealthily illegal means might have the odds on their side when it comes to avoiding the camera eye – but new legislative requirements set to take effect next year that will require households to furnish evidence of how they dispose of their litter to the local authority should mean, if the necessary monitoring is carried out, that time is running out for them.

In the end the most effective deterrent is prosecution of litter offenders through the courts, which carries the doubly persuasive sting of sizeable monetary penalty upon conviction and the “name and shame” effect from the publicity such cases attract in the media.

But the evidential requirements necessary to successfully prosecute offenders is such that they often have to be caught in the act, or be careless enough to leave identifying evidence among the rubbish they have illicitly disposed of. Neither proof is automatically forthcoming, and even if Monaghan Co Council do make the decision in 2015 to expand its regime of CCTV monitoring of known dumping black spots, there is no guarantee that successful prosecutions will rise to the extent of vindicating the level of expenditure the proposal carries.

Nevertheless, something must be done, and the Co Council’s declared intention to make solving the litter problem in the county one of their priorities for 2015 is to be applauded.

It is evident from the passion of the contributions from the elected members when this subject is debated in the Council chamber that the issue is one of widespread public concern.

But public disapproval must progress into public intolerance if the efforts of the local authority are to meet with success.

Each of us can be an effective litter policeman, not only by refraining from breaking the law in this regard ourselves, but acting rather than merely disapprovingly observing when we see others err.

The litter conundrum may be the local authority’s to solve statutorily, but morally it is all our responsibility.

THE BLEAK MIDWINTER

Wet weather, high winds, and the prospect of snow…we seem at last in the grip of the bleak midwinter after an extended period of exceptional mildness in our fickle Irish climate.

The suddenness of the change in our climatic fortunes is of particularly pertinent relevance to safety on our roads.

We would appeal to all Co Monaghan motorists to exercise an enhanced degree of caution in the weeks ahead with regard to speed and respect for other roadusers, be they drivers, cyclists or pedestrians.

The Gardaí will shortly be implementing their programme of enhanced monitoring measures aimed at ensuring that the roads of the county remain accident-free over the Christmas and New Year period.

They deserve the courtesy and co-operation of the Co Monaghan motoring public in this onerous but essential duty.

 

 

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