Drivers warned to stop leaving faeces along Irish motorways

Maintenance firm says bottles of urine and used needles are regularly picked up by its workers

Drivers have been urged to stop leaving faeces and other rubbish on the side of Irish motorways.

Bottles of urine, used nappies, human faeces and contaminated needles are among the items routinely picked up on the sides of Irish motorways by road maintenance staff.

GSJ Maintenance, the company responsible for maintaining the motorway network in the Greater Dublin Area on behalf of Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), has now urged members of the public to refrain from throwing items out of their vehicle windows and leaving hazardous material and excrement in lay-bys and on road edges.

Urban sections of the network present a higher volume of small littering offences, with coffee cups and small bags – often containing faeces – tossed out of windows, according to GSJ's operations manager, Damien Breen. Conversely, rural areas see more frequent instances of larger fly-tipping items.


In an effort to deter litter offenders, TII and GSJ Maintenance installed numerous CCTV cameras and dummy cameras across the network at the end of 2017. More than 100 instances of people tossing items out of their windows have been recorded, with registration plate details sent to local councils to follow up with proceedings.

Cameras at the Coyne’s Cross junction on the N11 recorded the highest number of incidents, with 40 captured in the space of three months in 2018. CCTV at the M50’s Red Cow junction caught 35 offenders over a three-month period.

South Dublin County Council has issued 27 fines over the issue, while a spokesman for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said they are in the process of putting in place a formal enforcement procedure.

However, Mr Breen said it would be impossible to police the entire 170km of roads the company is responsible for and that issues continue to prevail.

‘Unnecessary hazards’

While grass cutting and repairing accidental damage are part of the job, intentional environmental harm caused by road users poses “additional and unnecessary hazards to staff”, Mr Breen told The Irish Times.

“Working on live motorways presents obvious hazards. This can be frustrating when we are having to carry out additional litter pick operations.”

For workers to access the grass centre of a road, vehicles must be spread over a 1km approach to the works, warning drivers of lane restrictions. Despite precautions, motorists have still subsequently driven into vehicles at full speed, according to TII.

Large events such as festivals, which can lead to increased weekend traffic, put an added strain on resources.

“Often the roads will be clear on a Friday afternoon and filthy by Monday morning,” said Mr Breen, adding: “It just shows that we are really quite a dirty nation.”

On top of general dumping in the area, there have been five instances of significant fly-tipping this year to date, including two abandoned trailers filled with old clothes on the N1. Last year approximately 1,000 burnt-out tyres were found along the N1, while collectors also had to deal with offal waste, building rubble, old furniture and more than 50 tanks of diesel sludge across four separate occasions.

Clean-up costs

Clean-up costs for instances like these can be in excess of €10,000 and are an additional cost to the taxpayer, said Mr Breen. At least 10 routine clean-ups occur per year, with the average 5km stretch of road incurring costs of €1,500.

A spokesman for TII said litter picking is a “significant cost” to the organisation. In 2018 the authority spent €730,000 removing rubbish that had been left along 744km of roadway.

“We could use that money to resurface a section of road or repair the network,” he said, adding: “Not only does littering create a bad image for visitors, but it poses a significant danger to the people picking it up.”

Annually GSJ Maintenance sends to landfill more than 600 cubic metres of litter collected from the Dublin motorway network.

Littering in a public place carries on-the-spot fines of €150 or a maximum fine of €3,000 if the litterer is convicted in the District Court. Anyone caught dumping illegally is liable to a fine of €5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to a year. If convicted on indictment a maximum fee of €15 million and/or imprisonment of up to 10 years may be imposed.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter