There is no simple answer to waste disposal. Since the beginning of time, we have had to find a means of disposing of what we all know is rubbish. Many years ago it was acceptable to throw papers and sweet wrappers on the ground or from your car whilst driving. It was also acceptable to burn rubbish in an old oil barrel or have bonfires as part of a tidy up.
All of those means of waste disposal have now been outlawed and they are banned.
In 1987, the Air Pollution Act banned any pollutant being introduced into the atmosphere which could cause injury to public health, cause damage to plants and animals and to amenities generally. This was a very wide ranging provision and the net effect of it was to outlaw bonfires or burning as a way to dispose of rubbish. In 1987 when this law was introduced, there was an outcry of how domestic waste and industrial waste was to be properly disposed of. There was no immediate alternative available at that time. This caused a problem for farmers and land owners attempting to burn gorse. These bush fires which were normally controlled and rarely got out of hand were outlawed.
The law for the most part is being complied with. There are no longer bonfires the way that we used to see them. However, Bonfire Night is something that should have come to an end in 1987, but it has not. Likewise, you will even see today pockets of gorse bush fires where land owners accidentally or otherwise allow bushes and scrub to be burnt off.
It was not until 1996 and the Waste Management Act that the law properly addressed the question of waste management and dumping. This was nearly 10 years on from the Air Pollution Act.
The Waste Management Act and associated Regulations that came with it introduced a series of formal procedures for the disposing of waste. At this time waste management companies sprung up and we were introduced for the first time to wheelie bins. Waste disposal, whether it is landfill or recycling, must now carry a waste permit which is issued by the Environmental Protection Agency. It has become the practice that individual consumers do not apply for these permits. Instead, we subscribe to a service provided by waste management companies who have wholesale operations and are best placed to be able to deal with large quantities of all types of rubbish.
The Environmental Protection Agency is a watchdog over waste management companies. They have powers of prosecution, meaning that they can bring waste management companies to Court if they are in breach of the terms of their permits. In extreme examples, they can withdraw the permit where there have been breaches of the Act and where waste has not been disposed of properly.
There is also a third act which is relevant, for which people regularly become before the Courts. That is the Litter Pollution Act. Mayo County Council actively pursues people who litter. People who are believed to have dumped illegally, by dropping rubbish in black bags at the side of the road or abandon bags in bogs, are regularly brought before the Courts in Mayo by the County Council.
The Courts take a very stern view on dumping rubbish illegally. The fines are very heavy and the County Council are actively engaged in trying to stamp out illegal dumping.
Anybody that may be tempted for economic reasons, or otherwise, to engage in illegal dumping should think very carefully because potentially they could face a jail sentence if convicted.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article, please seek legal advice.