Report on Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland

Date released: Sep 15 2005

The EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement (OEE) today published its report on The Nature and Extent of Unauthorised Waste Activity in Ireland.  Focusing on illegal waste activity since the introduction of the Waste Management Act 1996, the report concludes that large-scale illegal dumping of the type that occurred in Co. Wicklow during the period 1997 to 2002 is no longer taking place. 

The report also found that illegal cross border movement of waste has reduced significantly as a result of increased vigilance and cross border co-operation.  A total of 25 unauthorised landfills and 15 unauthorised waste handling facilities are identified in the Report.

“As a result of increased enforcement and new legislation, the nature of illegal waste activity is changing and requires an increasingly sophisticated enforcement response”, said Dara Lynott, EPA Director, Office of Environmental Enforcement.

The report indicates that, as cases make their way through the courts on indictment, large scale illegal dumping has given way to an increase in unauthorised waste collection, fly-tipping (sporadic, small scale dumping) and uncontrolled burning of waste. Other findings of note are that one in five households are not participating in a waste collection service and that the control of construction and demolition waste is not adequate.

Mr Lynott reiterated the message that all waste producers bear a responsibility for ensuring that waste is dealt with in a responsible and legitimate fashion. 

“Waste does not appear from thin air”, he stated.  “Everyone producing waste, from builders to householders, has a responsibility to do the right thing.  This means ensuring that your waste is only handed over to legitimate waste collectors.”

Report highlights:

  • A total of 25 unauthorised landfills were reported, of which:

-  8 sites contained household waste.  These sites were found in counties Monaghan (3), Wicklow (3), Cork (1) and Meath (1).  The cumulative quantity of household waste estimated to be contained in these landfills is in the region of 50,000 tonnes;

- 17 sites contained (either or both) Commercial & Industrial waste and Construction & Demolition waste (but no household waste).

  • 15 waste facilities (waste transfer / recycling and composting) have been identified as operating without authorisation. Of major concern to the OEE is the fact that some of these facilities are owned and operated by local authorities. 
  • Unauthorised collection of waste is a significant problem with over 50 per cent of local authorities reporting problems in this area.  The unregulated, small-scale ‘man in the van’ operators account for some of the increase in illegal fly-tipping reported.
  • Organised fly-tipping has been reported adjacent to major population centres such as Dublin, Galway and Limerick. 
  • Approximately 80 per cent of all local authorities identified backyard burning as being a significant issue. Backyard burning contributes over 50 per cent of all dioxin emissions in Ireland and is more prevalent in rural areas.
  • In 2003, 21 per cent of households (one in five) were either not served by or not availing of a waste collection service.  On an annual basis this could involve up to 287,000 tonnes of household waste arising from some 722,000 people.
  • The waste stream that has resulted in the greatest level of illegal activity is construction and demolition waste.  Over 80 per cent of the waste found in unauthorised landfills was construction and demolition waste.  Local authorities received more complaints about construction and demolition waste than about all other waste streams put together.
  • There is no evidence of significant mismanagement of hazardous waste by service providers in the period 1996 to 2004.

Key enforcement actions undertaken to date:

  • Concerted actions led by the OEE/police and undertaken by the enforcement authorities against suspected illegal operators, both north and south, resulted in a significant reduction in illegal cross-border movement.
  • Increased enforcement by local authorities in 2004 resulted in 12,000 site inspections and 377 road blocks with 1588 notices served under the Waste Management Act.  303 prosecutions were taken in 2004.
  • 110 additional waste enforcement staff were appointed to local authority enforcement teams and they received targeted guidance and training from the OEE, via the National Enforcement Network.
  • Establishment of the National Enforcement Network by the OEE led to greater levels of cooperation, sharing of intelligence on illegal activity and targeted enforcement by the enforcement authorities at local, regional, national and international level. 

Action Plan to Deal with Unauthorised Waste Activity

The OEE has used the information gathered during the course of this investigation to deal with unauthorised waste activity in Ireland.  Implementation of the OEE’s plan is being coordinated through the National Enforcement Network.

The report is available at www.epa.ie/pubs/waste/