Donegal T.D. wants illegal dumping tackled but has CCTV concerns

A Donegal T.D. has said more needs to be done to clampdown on illegal dumping in beauty spots in the county but has expressed reservations about the use of CCTV and drones to catch fly-tippers.

Independent T.D. Thomas Pringle was speaking during a debate on a bill that will provide for the use of CCTV for waste enforcement.

"I understand that far more needs to be done to address properly and efficiently the illegal dumping that ruins many of our beauty spots in this country. I have seen many beautiful areas around Donegal ruined by illegal dumping, which is incredibly upsetting," he said.

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But Deputy Pringle said he had some concerns about the Circular Economy, Waste Management (Amendment) and Minerals Development (Amendment) Bill 2022.

A new Bill is being introduced in the south to allow for CCTV to be used to catch flytippers.

"I know that during pre-legislative scrutiny of this Bill there was a discussion about facilitating non-CCTV technology, such as drones and body cameras, to ensure monitoring of illegal dumping takes place in a manner that is compliant with the general data protection regulation, GDPR, and law enforcement directive provisions rather than inserting a permanent fixture in rural areas.

"Why did those conversations not progress? I know the Minister has said that data privacy and data intrusion have been taken into account when drafting this Bill and I am very glad to hear that the Data Protection Commissioner was involved in addressing these concerns. However, despite the constant reassurances those have been addressed, I am yet to hear exactly how they have been addressed. It is extremely important this is looked at on Committee Stage," he said.

The Donegal T.D. said he understood the bill provided for CCTV usage to be reviewed at least every five years but he said he feared any temporary usage would likely become permanent.

"Really and truly, that arrangement will become permanent rather than being reviewed every five years," he said.

Deputy Pringle claimed the root causes of illegal dumping - such as access to services - needed to be addressed.

"It would be beneficial if we also looked further into the causes of illegal dumping. In some rural areas, such as in my constituency of Donegal, there is no provision for waste collection services and people are forced to travel long distances to dump their waste properly. In our attempt to address illegal dumping, we should be making more of an effort to address the lack of access rural areas may have to waste collection," he said.

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Ossian Smyth, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications responded to some of these concerns.

He said: "On the use of CCTV and other recording technologies, I am gratified but not surprised that the debate highlighted the need to deal with illegal dumping and littering. My Department has engaged with the local government sector in detail regarding these provisions.

"I understand the sector is fully satisfied the proposals in the Bill are fit for purpose but I want to reiterate that I do not want to see these technologies misused. I am satisfied the Bill will provide a robust legal basis in national law for their appropriate use. It is the lack of a legal basis that has prevented use of these technologies to date and it is that central problem the Bill will fix.

"Some Deputies pointed out that the GDPR is used sometimes as a catch-all excuse for not doing things. That is true but that was not the case here. The local authorities were prevented from gathering video evidence of dumping.

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"They could not use it for the purpose of obtaining convictions and they were hampered as a result. All of society suffers by that commercial dumping. This is a measure aimed at commercial operators who are illegally making money from dumping waste."