Litterers to be punished with higher fines as laws overhauled

Eamon Ryan criticises Government for being ‘all at sea’ on single-use plastic waste

On-the-spot litter fines will be “substantially increased” from the current €150, under the changes planned by Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten. Photograph: Dara Grehan

On-the-spot litter fines will be “substantially increased” from the current €150, under the changes planned by Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten. Photograph: Dara Grehan

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Substantially increased fines ranging up to €150,000 are to be introduced in an overhaul of litter pollution laws being drawn up by Minister for Environment Denis Naughten.

On-the-spot litter fines are also set to be “substantially increased” from the current level of €150 under the changes planned by the Minister.

The maximum fine following conviction on indictment under the Litter Pollution Act is set to be increased from €130,000 to €150,000. Those indicted on a summary offence face a fine of €5,000, up from €4,000, according to a department memo.

Where large-scale littering persists, it envisages daily fines following conviction on indictment will increase from €10,000 to €15,000. On summary conviction, daily fines will be increased to a maximum of €1,000.

The changes are subject to Government approval and legal drafting. They will be signed off in coming months and are due for adoption this year.

The mix of new fines is more penal than envisaged in a 2017 private members Bill currently before the Seanad.

Meanwhile, Mr Naughten has announced more than 400 projects will be approved for funding of €3.3 million this year by his department under the Anti-Dumping Initiative (ADI).

“The aim is to reduce illegal dumping by providing funding for projects tackling the problem and to develop an integrated and effective combined approach with local authorities, communities and other State agencies,” he added.

Waste responsibility

Communities were central to the initiative’s success, he said. “While they are the victims of this crime they have demonstrated through their active participation with this initiative that they are not prepared to surrender their beaches, mountainside, parks or streets to those among us who don’t take responsibility for the waste that they produce.”

This year’s ADI includes a pilot project by Sligo County Council aimed at tackling illegal dumping through an Eircode investigation. Funding is also being made available to undertake research on crime in the waste sector. Other projects include surveillance operations using CCTV, drone and trail surveillance.

He has also confirmed an allocation of €884,000 from the Environment Fund to 31 local authorities under the 2018 Anti-Litter and Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme. Local authorities use this funding to raise awareness and encourage behavioural change to tackle graffiti and littering, including gum, cigarette butts and dog fouling.

In response to Mr Naughten’s announcement this week on plastics, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Government was “all at sea” on single-use plastic waste. “He initially supported the idea of a levy on non-recyclable, or compostable coffee cups but [has] reversed engines and said he would leave it to industry to deal with the problem.”

Plastic straws

He added: “He also initially opposed our deposit refund scheme (DRS) on plastic bottles, but came out yesterday saying he wants to introduce such a scheme on a trial basis. International experience shows these schemes work best when done at scale.”

The Greens, he said, would be pushing their Waste Reduction Bill in the Dáil next month, to legislate for a levy on single-use cups; a ban on plastic straws, cutlery and other single-use items; and to introduce a DRS on bottles and cans.

“The only means the Government have to block it is for the Department of Public Expenditure to refuse to issue the ‘money message’ that allows the Bill go to committee stage. Taking such an approach would show where Fine Gael stands on this issue. They have only a few weeks to change tack.”

An Taisce said the plague of throwaway single-use coffee cups with separate plastic lids and increasing unrecyclable waste and litter, was set to continue. The Minister had “copped out on effective action which requires ending throwaway containers and promoting carry-around personal permanent use cups”.

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