Rubbish discarded along a drain close to the very scenic Lough Nasplennagh, off Pontoon Road, Castlebar.

Exploring illegal dumping in Mayo, part three

by Emma Kilcawley Hemani

As we have seen from the previous two articles, illegal dumping has been an issue around the country and in Mayo for some time.

Despite the widespread dispersal of information pertaining to the troubles illegal dumping may cause and the increasing knowledge of the topic, the future holds no guarantee that the issue will be combated, though local groups such as Tidy Towns, Clean Your Beaches and Mayo County Council are willing to do anything in their power to curtail this issue.

The government state on their website that, to date, €6.3 million in funding has been provided, supporting 700 projects over all 31 local authorities.

With so many groups volunteering to clean up their communities, large amounts of funding poured into tackling illegal dumping and all the other technological and legislative efforts that have been made, the problem has not become eradicated, proving that more needs to be done.

The future looks something like this: drones and mobile cameras keeping an eye on illegal dumping areas of interests, new legislation being brought in to deter dumpers from doing so illegally with the fear of getting caught, and with the advancement of technology, who knows what may come next to further prevent illegal dumping.

Though the main question is, has it worked? Is it going to work in the future?

Tidy Towns volunteers work tirelessly along with Clean Your Beaches in west Mayo, ensuring their communities are free from rubbish that has been left there illegally, with Peter Flynn, Fine Gael councillor, praising them, stating: “They do a fantastic job.”

Those individuals can only be praised and thanked for the efforts they make to right someone else’s wrongs.

Though, unfortunately, during the pandemic as restrictions have been introduced it has meant that Tidy Towns were not able to meet up in mass groups to do their regular clean-ups, though thankfully they have been able to continue at a reduced capacity, cleaning up communities all across Ireland while even winning some awards!

Mayo County Council have installed mobile cameras where they identify dumping locations, which Flynn says has ‘definitely helped’.

The council have also stated they intend to use drones to help combat the issue of illegal dumping around the county, with staff being said to have been trained in the use of this practice in July 2020.

The drones are intended to identify and maintain surveillance on areas which have been deemed as problematic areas for illegal dumping, among other criminal activities.

This comes with the hope that those who intend on dumping their rubbish in those areas will be deterred from following through, due to the threat of being caught on camera doing so.

This acts as a technological further attempt to tackle the problem after, in October of last year, Mayo County Council adopted the Waste Management (Segregation, Storage and Presentation of Household and Commercial Waste) bye laws, which aim to re-enforce the responsibility on households and businesses to dump their waste using permitted waste collectors and facilities.

The hope is that with this new byelaw, and the threat of the issue of a heavy fine if one is found to not be complying with the laws, it will deter people from dumping in the wrong places, encouraging them to dump in those places that are permitted.

When asked if he thought fines were a good way of curtailing the issue in the future, Councillor Flynn stated that he ‘absolutely thought so’, saying that unfortunately heavy fines are the way to combat such behaviours, with ‘naming and shaming’ being ‘the most significant way’ of dealing with it in his opinion.


In this time, due to the uncertainty that one has around them possibly having the Covid-19 virus and the ability to spread it even if one is not showing symptoms, the negligent dumping of PPE equipment such as gloves and masks is a definite cause for concern, considering people may be spreading the virus without realising through PPE products that have not been disposed of correctly.

Not only that, but alongside the dangers it may cause to our health, it certainly causes some danger to our environment and communities.

These items are less likely to be picked up, as the consequences of doing so are unknown to those cleaning up our communities, in terms of the spread of the virus.

It is paramount that your masks and gloves are disposed of properly, in a bag and in the bin.

In a report done by Irish Business Against Litter in October, it showed an increase in illegal dumping during the pandemic, with PPE equipment driving the increase in illegal dumping along with empty cans and bottles, thought to be due to the rise in drinking outdoors following the closure of pubs due to restrictions.

The rise is also thought to be due to the increase in rubbish being generated inside households as people all around the country are told to stay inside, with some people clearing out old items and dumping them haphazardly.

The rise in household waste is thought to have increased by around 30% since the lockdown began, as reported by RTE.

This, accompanied with less cleaning up by volunteers such as Tidy Towns (due to restrictions as well as funding being poured into other groups during the pandemic), proves treacherous to the beautiful landscape of our country, not just environmentally but visibly too.

Countless groups across the country and specifically in Mayo are working hard to try to eliminate illegal dumping, from the use of cameras to drones, to people volunteering their own time to pick up someone else’s rubbish – but ultimately, it is down to the individual to ensure they do their part.

There is still a minority of people leaving their rubbish on the roadside, or beside bins as opposed to inside them, and as Councillor Flynn stated, we need to ‘appeal to that small minority to do the right thing and to have a bit of pride in where we live, where we work and where we go to school and all the rest of it and that we continue to do the right thing’, adding that he feels like we are moving in ‘the right direction’.

There are specific places for the dumping of rubbish which should be adhered to, PPE equipment must be disposed of properly and carefully, and people must ensure they do their bit to save our communities – only then will the efforts of all our hard workers prove truly profitable for our environment.