Public more willing to report illegal dumping in forests during pandemic, says Coillte

One-fifth of rubbish found on forestry body lands is electrical, which is free to recycle

As much as one-fifth of rubbish dumped illegally on the lands of forestry body Coillte is electrical produce that is free and relatively easy to dispose of legitimately.

The commercial semi-State firm on Monday said it had spent almost €2 million in the last five years on clearing all manner of debris and junk from Irish forests.

However, public engagement with reporting dumping has risen by more than half between 2019 and last year, a shift Coillte believes reflects greater numbers of visitors during the pandemic.

"We spend between €350,000 and €550,000 a year [on clean-ups]," said Mick Power, Coillte's national estates manager, who oversees the care of 440,000 hectares of land. "Some years you will get a large problem area."


Typical refuse discovered dumped at the entrance to forest paths and elsewhere included washing machines and fridge freezers, free to recycle in most cases.

Black sacks, sometimes with food, nappies, cans and bottles, are also common, as are beds and sofas, household furniture and other items Coillte believes are the result of home renovations.

Old bricks

Building rubble such as old bricks and wooden planks, along with soil and tyres, are also common. Three years ago, four articulated truckloads of tyres were dumped in a car park at Ravensdale in Co Louth.

While the vast majority of people’s attitude to forests is seen as respectful, Coillte notes that illegal dumping is damaging to habitats and biodiversity and causes pollution to rivers and drinking water.

“I wouldn’t forgive anybody for dumping electric goods in forests at this point in time no matter how badly off they are because every one of these items can be recycled [for free],” Mr Power said.

He has also noted increases in dumping activity for periods after waste charges are increased, which falls off as people gradually accept them and pay.

“We do have an issue with the man with a van [who tells people] I will clean out your garage for €50 or whatever,” he said. “He will tell you he’s going to the dump but you know where he’s going and it’s handy and it’s quick... you will turn a blind eye.”

Public reporting is playing an increasing role in tackling the problem in recent times, with calls to a dedicated phone line (1890-800455) rising from 320 in 2019 to 500 last year, an increase of 56 per cent.

“I think that’s a measure of people’s involvement in the forests has gone up in the last 12 months and that there’s more people out there,” Mr Power said.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times