Local authorities across the State could be spending an average of €90 million a year on clean-ups of illegal dumping, the Seanad heard as legislation was introduced to use CCTV to prosecute such offences.
Labour Senator Mark Wall said CCTV was one of the most effective tools in the fight against such environmental vandalism.
Introducing the Local Government (Use of CCTV in Prosecution of Offences) Bill, he said it would allow city and county councils to use CCTV for the “prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution” of such dumping.
Mr Wall said county councils in Kildare, Meath and south Dublin were spending “mind-blowing amounts” – an average of €3 million a year, which if replicated across all 31 local authorities would add to an average of €90 million.
“Of course this figure does not include the many volunteer hours that so many groups and individuals put in each year in trying to keep their localities clean,” he added.
The Kildare-based Senator paid tribute to volunteers who tried to keep their localities clean but he said “we simply should not tolerate littering of any kind in this country”.
Mr Wall said the use of CCTV had to be put on a proper legal footing because existing litter pollution, waste management and local government laws do not include provisions for local authorities to process personal data when using CCTV surveillance for law enforcement.
The Government will not oppose the legislation but Minister of State Peter Burke said the Department of Environment was drafting a circular economy Bill that could include measures from discussions with the data protection commissioner and county council management. This would help ensure local authorities could process personal data while enforcing litter and waste laws, he said.
Mr Wall told the Seanad that Kildare County Council was dealing with up to 50 incidents a week, while South Dublin County Council’s clean-up of waste rose by 750 tonnes last year to 6,760 tonnes. It has budgeted for an additional €200,000 this year to cope with the level of dumping.
Louth County Council last year collected 792 tonnes of fly-tipping waste at a cost of €26,900 in direct disposal costs and there were 954 complaints of littering to Kerry County Council last year but no court prosecutions.
Fianna Fáil Senator Mary Fitzpatrick said the Garda operated a significant CCTV network in Dublin's north inner city and the local authority could benefit from the enhanced technologies.
But she said there had to be a proper assessment of the resource requirement. “There’s no point in us erecting a camera and its footage not being monitored or recorded and then acted on and enforced.”
Fine Gael Senator John Cummins said it was "GDPR gone mad" that Waterford council had been reprimanded for using CCTV to monitor illegal dumping.
“It has left local authorities with one hand tied behind their back in the fight against illegal dumping” and is “an attack on society and on our rights to enjoy amenities throughout the country without having to encounter often large-scale dumping”.
Independent Senator Sharon Keogan said she had been contacted by litter wardens "who are utterly exasperated by the absence of this vital tool to deal with the illegal dumping epidemic that is facing communities, both urban and rural, across the country".