In the City, It Can Be Hard to Recycle

Maggie Moran says there are no bottle banks in her part of the city.

The nearest one is in the North Strand, says Moran, who is a member of the North Great George’s Street Residents’ Association in Dublin 1. That’s 1.5 kilometres away.

“Many people who live in the city centre do not have cars, so this means that they do not have access to glass-recycling facilities. It is a real problem for them,” she said.

It’s not just a problem in her neighbourhood. Of the 84 bottle banks across Dublin city, there is just one in Dublin 1 and there are none in Dublin 2.

How to Solve It?

This is an issue local councillors say they are well aware of.

Ciaran Cuffe, Green Party councillor for Dublin’s North Inner City, says that he raised it with council officials several months ago.

But as the bye-laws are at the moment, the council needs written permission from any household within 50 metres of the proposed site of a new bottle bank for the plan to be a runner, he said.

The worry is that the clatter and smash of bottles being thrown into the banks would add to the noise pollution that those who live in the city face. “It can be difficult to find locations,” said Cuffe.

There are ways around those concerns though, says Moran of the residents’ association. Bottle banks in urban areas could have time restrictions that mean you can’t use them at night or on a Sunday morning, she said. (She said she has seen this work in Germany.)

Or waste-management companies could pick up bottles when they grab the other rubbish, she said. In the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council area, Panda Recycling does pick up bottles. So why can’t they do it here?

The problem appears to be that Dublin City Council bye-laws list glass packaging as “waste excluded from collection”. So even if waste companies collect glass bottles elsewhere, they aren’t allowed to here in the Dublin City Council area.

It’s unclear why that is. Dublin City Council Press Office didn’t respond to a query about that. Fine Gael Councillor Naoise O’Muiri, who is head of the council’s environment committee, said he wasn’t sure of the reason, as the bye-law had come in before his time.

According to a spokesperson for Dublin City Council, the cost of land, as well as planning and development regulations, are also challenges when it comes to finding sites for bottle banks.

“Dublin City Council continues to look for suitable new sites within its administrative area to ensure higher levels of glass recycling,” he said. But he didn’t give any specifics or a timeline.

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn believes the problem is rooted in a lack of planning, on behalf of the state, for the provision of recycling facilities. “The problem is that the bring centres and bottle banks are ad hoc charity-run services, rather than being properly planned for and provided by the state,” he said.

Despite this, Ireland’s glass-recycling rates don’t compare too badly to those of its European neighbours. According to Eurostat figures from 2013, the most recent year available, Ireland ranked tenth in the EU with a glass-packaging recycling rate of 80 percent, well above the EU average of 71.3 percent.

Mixed Bins

It’s not only those in private accommodation who struggle to recycle.

At several local-authority apartment complexes throughout the city, there are no green bins for recycling waste, or brown bins for food, even though local-authority bye-laws demand that householders segregate their rubbish.

There are mixed communal bins at the moment, and many of them don’t have lids, said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn. “They are overflowing and attracting rats and seagulls. You see rubbish spilling out all over the place. It runs the whole thing down and dilapidates it.”

Indeed, at the Oliver Bond Flats in the South Inner City on Monday, residents said they thought they should have recycling, but they also complained that the open bins were attracting rats.

Standing outside her home, Lorraine O’Brien said a large rat had just been pulled out of the drain outside her ground-floor flat. She said she thought the bins didn’t have lids because kids keep setting them on fire.

People Before Profit Councillor Tina McVeigh says she’s calling for a total review of waste-management facilities in local-authority developments. She hopes this would draw attention to three issues: the lack of recycling facilities, the open bins, and the fact that the council does not appear to be compliant with existing regulations.

“The law states clearly that you must divide your rubbish, but the city council are not providing for that legislation,” said Flynn.

Said a Dublin City Council spokesperson: “All waste collection companies operating in Dublin City should be operating a three bin system.”

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Laoise Neylon: Laoise Neylon is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach her at laoiseneylon@gmail.com.

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