Offaly County Council has three full-time litter wardens on patrol six days per week and each has a dedicated litter van to deal with complaints.

More than half of litter fines issued in 2021 were paid

More than half of the 133 litter fines that Offaly County Council issued in 2021 have been paid, according to its Draft Litter Management Plan January 2022 to December 2024. There is further encouraging news in that the figure of 133 litter fines issued is down on the 2020 figure of 177.

If that news is positive, it comes at a considerable cost to the council, as it has spent €1.4 million on street cleaning for its towns and villages, or approximately €500,000 per annum, over the last three years.

The council says that passing pedestrians and motorists cause most litter pollution in Offaly, according to the National Litter Monitoring Body: passing pedestrians account for 42pc and motorists account for 25pc. The council says that those figures correlate to the composition of litter found during surveys for the Litter Pollution Monitoring System, i.e. from people smoking, eating and drinking on the street or dropped from passing vehicles.

Fly-tipping in the county, including dumping at bring banks, is another major issue of concern for the council, which said in the report that it "is not only disrespectful to residents who live near bring centres, but also encourages more dumping". It says CCTV at problematic sites has reduced littering, but it also noted an increase in large scale illegal dumping and fly tipping, particularly in remote areas.

"To return these sites back to their original state incorporates a lot of resources in terms of staff and financial assistance from the council," it states in the report.

All environmental complaints received by the Environment and Water Services are logged in the Pollution Complaints Database; each has a unique number and is investigated by the litter wardens. Photographs and report are submitted by the wardens and uploaded for each complaint and recommendations for action (such as issuing section notices, litter fines or legal proceedings) are provided to assist in closing each case.

The number of complaints received in the pollutions complaints database from 2018 to 2021: 2018 – 979; 2019 – 966; 2020 – 1142; and 2021 (till the end of November) – 929.

In November 2021, Offaly County Council and volunteers from a number of community groups including Tullamore Tidy Towns and Shannonside Sub Aqua Club participated in a clean-up of the Tullamore River. There was a large volume of waste and litter visible, and more than 20 shopping trolleys, plus bicycles, beds, mattresses and a 60-inch flat screen TV were among the 1.5 tonnes of waste and litter taken from the river and disposed of.

The council says that the objectives set out in its litter plan can only be achieved through the co-operation of all sectors, from the council to the business and school sectors and public.

"Education and awareness, as well as enforcement are key to the success of maintaining Offaly as a clean county in which to live as well as improving areas that need attention. Litter management is everyone’s responsibility and only by working together and combining resources will we achieve a cleaner, greener and healthier Offaly in which to live," the report concluded.