It’s the week or so after Christmas or New Years.
You load up the wine, beer and mineral bottles in boxes in the boot of your car.
You head for the bottle bank. There are 43 of them in Laois.
You rock up, but it’s full. Overflowing. Bottles, plastic bags, boxes, cartons of bottles everywhere.
You had set out to do a job and you’re going to do it. There’s no way you’re carting those bottles back home again and either way you’re not sure where the next bottle bank is. This is the one you use all the time.
What could be wrong with leaving the bottles in a bag or a box beside the brimming full recycling containers, right? Wrong!
Wrong, wrong, wrong. It’s illegal and you will be detected on CCTV, tracked down and fined €150. A hefty penalty and annoying into the bargain and you after trying to do the right thing, be a civic minded citizen and recycle.
Well the cavalry – in the form of Cllr Paddy Bracken and his Council colleagues are riding to your rescue and have put up a good fight and a fair stand to have your fine quashed.
It’s resolved. Well, sort of resolved. Read on…
The vexed issue overflowing bottle banks in towns around the county over the Christmas and New Yea period was raised once again at the Council meeting this week. Paddy Bracken led the charge. Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald had raised it previously in January.
Instead of the letter of the law being rigorously applied, Cllr Bracken and his colleagues pleaded for leniency, a waiver, some cop-on, and common sense to be applied for those who set out to do the right thing, are normally law abiding, pay all their taxes and yet here they are with a €150 fine slapped on them, for leaving bottles or containers next to the overflowing bottle banks.
“It’s grossly unfair that these law abiding people who have gone and made all the effort to recycle as we encourage them. Hand on heart I can honestly say that this is morally wrong to slap a €150 fine on them, many of them elderly people, decent people and it’s not like they throw them over the ditch or anything.
“They have been caught because they drove up in a car which is identified on CCTV and if they walked up and left them, there would be nothing about it at all as no one would know who they are. These are genuine people who have been hit with litter fines as when they arrived up to the bottle bank at Super Valu in Mountmellick over the Christmas it was full,” Cllr Paddy Bracken put in a strong argument for a waiver on such fines.
“I’m asking that we show a bit of compassion, as these people were not out with the intention of dumping in the first place, “Cllr Bracken added. He also said there was an onus on the Council to ensure that the contractor responsible for maintaining the bottle banks did so properly and made provision for the busy Christmas season.
Councillors lined up to support his appeal on behalf of what he said were “genuine people”.
Other councillors had similar cases to report – Seamus Mc Donald, John King, Noel Tuohy, Paschal Mc Evoy, Padraig Fleming, Tom Mulhall and Catherine Fitzgerald rowed in behind Cllr Bracken in full support, describing the situation as ‘ludicrous’ and ‘ridiculous’ – especially as they bottle banks had not been properly managed and emptied on time.
“Are we asking so that we throw out these fines and waive any fines issued over that period, after all the onus is on us (the Council) to empty the bins,” Chariman, Willie Aird threw his weight in behind the cause.
‘Driving people bananas’
Cllr Tom Mulhall agreed: “It would be more in our line to focus on the real culprits, those who litter our drains, gateways and hedgerows. I don’t see too many of them in court.”
“It is a serious problem. I raised it first at the last meeting and it should be a simple thing to organise more frequent collections during the busy period. It drives people bananas and I can’t understand why it’s not sorted. It’s totally stupid and the real culprits never pay for anything.”
The local authority senior management were sympathetic to the points being raised but declined to agree to a blanket waiver. Each case could be appealed on an individual basis and would be dealt with fairly, on merit.
CEO John Mulholland stated: “I’m very much open to reviewing this on a case by case basis based on the intentions of the people involved who are civic minded and trying to do the right thing.
A wink was as good as a nod to the councillors who would have preferred to avoid each individual having to appeal each fine, but there was going to be no blanket waiver, so this was a result.
Director-of-Services, Simon Walton elaborated that he too acknowledged the comments of the elected members and understood the frustration being expressed.
However, he pointed out that under the 1997 Litter Act the local authority had a responsibility to enforce the law and that there are signs clearing stating this at the bring banks. If they are full, it is an offence to leave bottles or litter adjacent to the site.
He urged those who felt that they have been treated inappropriately to fill out the appeal form and their case will be considered.
Mr Walton noted that he too had to think of the staff in the environmental section who had a difficult job to do and also to the communities and businesses who facilitated the bring banks and expected them to be respected and maintained to a certain standard.
There are 43 such bring banks located across the county. The emptying and management of the bottle banks is contracted out to a private company, on a four county basis across the midlands, with Offaly being the lead county.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said she would like to see this arrangement reviewed as it is clearly not working.