The post-Christmas and January period, is one of the busiest times for county Wicklow’s recycling centres and bottle banks. It’s a time when garden sheds fill to capacity. Numerous empty beer cans lie contentedly with Christmas day chardonnay bottles, their hangovers just beginning. Mountains of Christmas wrapping paper are reacquainted with the crushed card board packaging that contained the numerous Christmas toys and presents. Granny’s gift, the prerequisite woolly Christmas jumper, embroidered with reindeer and Santa, hardly worn, and as aluminous as the day she presented it, now serves as a blanket to wrap the broken plates that were accidentally shattered during Granddad’s over enthusiastic rendition of the ‘Wren Boys’.
When the Christmas festivities are long forgotten and reality slowly creeps back into our consciousness, we are forced to make that laborious journey to the garden shed and conduct the annual post festive ritual of, ‘The Recycling Trip’. Every year you reprimand yourself for not attending to the mess earlier. Every year you comment on how the bags get bigger, the rubbish gets higher, and that next year you’ll remember to change into your boots, your slippers plodding angle deep into a stagnant pool of ice water. Shed empty, car full, you reluctantly drive to the recycling centre.
The car journey is punctuated by your inner mutterings of contempt, all of which are unfortunately directed at yourself. Slowly, yet deliberately, you open the car boot and stare in at the matrix of boxes that are stacked roof high, a monument to consumerism. For a moment, you stand motionless. Staring into the abyss, transfixed by a sudden philosophical contemplation, you evaluate the ‘Waste of Christmas Past’. Did we really drink that much? How much wrapping paper does it take to cover one present? How many presents were there? What in the name of god was in that box? I don’t even remember opening that one and my name is on it? You look around the car park and to your utter astonishment you realise that the other ‘Recyclers’ are staring into their packed car-boots, all of them probably conducting the exact same mental examination.
As the contents of the car begins to gradually empty, a sudden sense of contentment begins to envelope you. You feel lighter, healthier even. You stride back and forth to each of the different recycling containers, a spring in your step, a new-found fondness for the process. Again, you realise that you are not the only person witnessing this new state of euphoria. The other ‘Recyclers’ greet you with a warm glow, an almost cartoonish grin on their face.
You consider ringing Joe Duffy with a suggestion that recycling should be introduced into the concept of Wellness, a new form of holistic healing. The last remaining box, full of old motor enthusiast manuals, travel guides, kitchen, home, and entertainment magazines, greets you from inside the car. The annual, after Christmas cleansing ritual, is now almost at an end. You pause briefly, nonchalantly leafing through an entertainment magazine with numerous articles concerning the lives of Hollywood actors and their unpronounceable offspring before depositing the last buddle into oblivion.
As you make the journey home, your previous mutterings of discontent are now replaced by the sound of jovial whistling. You ponder a mathematical equation; how much material is received by recycling centres after the Christmas period. Sitting back in your car you feel content in the knowledge that you did your bit for the environment. Unfortunately, your positive self-congratulatory deliberations suddenly turn to disgust and anger. There, dumped in a mist covered woodland entrance, lies the entire contents of a fellow Christmas reveller’s unwanted household goods.
Judging by the discarded contents you can easily surmise the items they received this Christmas. A fridge, which upon inspection appears to be almost new, the only disfigurement an absent plug, sits upright against an old oak tree. A trailer load of unwanted, (all recyclable) material, dumped by a thoughtless irresponsible individual with little or no thought for our county’s environment, lies strewn on the ground, incongruent in the otherwise pristine winter landscape. Bags of clothes, bottles, cans, newspapers, toys, a similar selection of items that you have just deposited at the recycling centre, block the woodland entrance.
Unfortunately, the above scenario is prevalent in many Wicklow areas before, and after, the Christmas season. Although most people will take the time to visit the recycling centres to dispose of their waste, there is a minority who will have a total disregard for our landscape. These people will dump their waste within miles of our recycling centres, too lazy to drive that extra mile to dispose of their rubbish in a responsible manner.
Then there is the ‘Professional Dumper’. For the ‘Professional Dumper’ (alternatively known as the notorious ‘Man in the Van)’, the Christmas period brings with it many economic benefits and trappings. This type of illegal dumper goes from door to door promising the swift removal of all your Christmas waste. Unfortunately, all this material will invariably end up in the Wicklow uplands. One easy way to ensure that your waste is disposed of in a responsible manner is to ask all door-to-door waste collectors for a valid waste collection permit (all waste permits are issued by Wicklow County Council). If they don’t have one, don’t hand over your waste.
In the first three weeks of 2017, PURE (Protecting Uplands & Rural Environments), a project established to combat illegal dumping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands, collected over 12 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish. Since the project began in September 2006 PURE has removed over 2,900 tonnes of illegal dumping from the environment, the equivalent of over 290,000 black bags, and received over 9,500 reports of dumping.
To report illegal dumping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands lo-call 1850 365 121 and PURE will remove the it.
The PURE project focuses directly on the fly-tipping/illegal dumping issue and has introduced a number of enforcement, preventative and educational initiatives including:
- A lo-call-phone-line for reporting of fly-tipping/illegal dumping – 1850 365 121
- Environmental Effectiveness – development of a unique data-base to record all complaints and incidents of fly-tipping/illegal dumping
- Dedicated clean-up vehicle which responds to all incidents of fly-tipping/illegal dumping
- GPS/GIS data-base to record all incidents of fly-tipping/illegal dumping
- Public Awareness – various campaigns to create environmental awareness
- Environmental Videos – creation of environmental videos showing the negative impact illegal dumping has on our environment
- Website – www.pureproject.ie – Facebook, www.facebook.com/Pureproject.ie/ and Twitter account – www.twitter.com/PureProject1 providing information on all aspects of the PURE project
- Community Initiatives – The PURE Mile – a project that encourages people who live on a mile stretch of rural road to work together to enhance and improve their environment, their heritage and their community
- Education programmes – Primary School Teacher’s Pack – PURE Animation, PURE Music, PURE Wisdom, PURE Theatre, etc.
- Media Campaign – An extensive regional and national P.R. and media campaign to create awareness of the effects of illegal dumping
PURE is a partnership project and the first of its kind in Ireland which incorporates statutory and non-statutory organisations, including; Wicklow County Council, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, South Dublin County Council, Coillte, National Parks & Wildlife Service, and the Wicklow Uplands Council. Funded by Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, PURE was established to combat illegal dumping/fly-tipping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands. The project was officially launched in September 2006.