Speech by Denis Naughten T.D.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment
at the Launch of the 2017 Anti-Dumping Initiative
Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co Galway Monday 13th March 2017, 13.00pm
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I would far rather be here speaking with you about my plans for cleaner air, improved connectivity or energy efficiency.
Illegal dumping in all its forms is an anathema to all that we are striving to achieve for our environment. Today, as custodians of that environment, we have come together to say enough.
While responsibility for enforcing the waste code rests with local authorities, the growth in this criminal and quite simply unpatriotic activity requires a national response and so I am pleased to formally launch this 2017 anti-dumping initiative as Minister for the Environment.
Community groups that engage in local clean-ups, motivated purely by love of place and pride in parish, have been the bulwark against those who engage in this deplorable practice. The community groups' efforts to push back deserve recognition and support.
Communities are being robbed of amenities, local services and infrastructure improvements because local authorities are forced to divert more resources into clean-up operations. This is neither fair nor sustainable.
Enhanced enforcement techniques are now required to redress the balance and apply the polluter pays principle. Local authority waste enforcement officers are the vanguard against such malpractice. That is why I, as Minister, continue to prioritise waste enforcement through on-going investment in the sector. I want to see local authorities use this initiative to equip their officers with the latest technologies available to support SMART enforcement of our waste laws. Through the deployment of overt and covert surveillance equipment, the use of drone technology and mobile workforce applications, we can make the risk of detection high enough to deter those prepared to engage in this deplorable practice.
Understanding what motivates those who illegally dump also serves to drive the development of effective strategies to combat illegal dumping. In other words, why do people dump illegally and what can be done about it?
One reason is that we consume too much. Irish consumption patterns and our appetite for excess are among the highest in the world – as a consequence, we have more to throw away.
In a modern society, where everything is available, all year round and at every price point, we need to think about how we, in our homes, can live within the capacity of our planet in terms of the Earth's materials we consume and the waste we must manage – why do we use disposable bottles and cups when reusable cups and bottles are available?
It is no surprise that the cheap, abundant and most frequently used household products of our society are most commonly discarded in our countryside and on our streets. This says much about our material cultures. It also demonstrates how far we must change if we are to become a truly Circular Economy.
It appears to be no longer politically correct to discuss the issue of personal responsibility. When there is widespread illegal dumping; it's the Government's fault, local authorities aren't doing enough, or there isn't enough information on what to do with your waste, and so on, is the typical narrative.
When you look at illegal dumping it shows these acts are premeditated, covert, rationalised and, in some cases, riddled with false justification. Some believe that if they leave a small bag of household rubbish with other piles of waste, then somehow these public spaces turn into legitimate dumping sites, and their rubbish will be ignored or cleaned up by a community group, a tidy towns group or the local authority. Oblivious of the consequences.
There is an intrinsic relationship between how we view our environment and how we engage with it. It is fair to speculate that the guilt of those who choose to dump diminishes if they regard our environment as having no real value beyond serving our needs for consumption and disposal.
This is where the real battle needs to be joined and why this initiative is being targeted, not just at local authorities, but at community and voluntary groups. By engaging in environmentally responsible actions on a community level, people become more sensitive to the larger environmental issues that affect their local area. Those who actually interact with their environment develop a stronger sense of environmental community than those who do not; and put simply, they are far less likely to abuse it.
I am taking this opportunity to encourage people to use the EPA's 'See it, Say it' App to report dumping and other pollution. The App allows you to take a photo of dumping and the App sends it, with the GPS coordinates, to the local authority. Last year, there were over 2,250 complaints reported using the App; 94% of these complaints related to illegal dumping.
As a rural TD and Minister with responsibility for the development of inland fisheries, I am acutely conscious of the role tourism has to play in the growth of our rural economy. Recreational angling alone is worth over €800 million and supports over 11,000 jobs throughout the country. Its potential growth and development is entirely dependent on the preservation and protection of our fish stocks, our magnificent landscapes, and our clean waterways.
Rural dumping represents a clear threat to this important sector. It threatens jobs and income in rural Ireland. It undermines everything that the various agencies promoting Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe are trying to accomplish. Put bluntly, illegal dumping is economic and environmental treason.
In conclusion, I believe it is beholden on all of us here today to redouble our efforts. This initiative is a first step, not the solution. It does however represent an opportunity to remediate existing blackspots, to support and energise community groups and to equip local authority officers with the tools required to effectively pursue and charge those who harm our local environment through their deliberate actions.
I am fully behind you all. Well done and lets get to work.