Words: Dylan Murphy
Litter in the capital is undoubtedly a growing problem. We’ve looked at successful solutions from across the globe to inform what Dublin can do better.
By now, we’ve all seen the virtual ping pong that was rife on Twitter over the weekend. Contrarians, devil’s advocates and bin commandeers were flinging ideas, insults and hypotheses back and forth about the large gatherings on South William Street and the implications it had for local residents, litter and Covid-19 numbers.
These issues are being exacerbated by the government’s failure to see Dublin as anything other than a vehicle for making money. This ideology manifests itself in the Carroll’s that frequent street corners and the lack of affordable housing and as of late and more importantly – bins.
While we’ve known for some time that it’s going to be an outdoor summer this year, it appears that the capital is still ill-equipped for what we were told to prepare for. When young people can’t afford accommodation in Dublin let alone places with a garden they are pushed to public spaces and the responsibility lies with the council and government to provide facilities to ensure the public can safely adhere to the new restrictions.
With the next two weeks set to be prime barbeque weather, it’s inevitable people will want to hang outside together. After the longest lockdown in Europe, who would blame them?
With that comes to added impetus to ensure the streets are kept clean from people meeting up to drink and eat together outside.
We’ve looked at what other cities have done to tackle waste management in areas with high footfall.
Incentive schemes are great, but it’s worth trusting people only need a little encouragement to do the right thing. Trials in Copenhagen demonstrated huge success when using colour-coded footprints and bins to first of highlight the bins existence with the grey and overcrowded makeup of modern metropolises in mind and secondly nudge pedestrians in the right direction to bin their waste.
The nordic city saw a 46 per cent fall in the number of wrappers on the street and three months later there was still a 26 per cent decrease. Sterling in Scotland seen positive results too with 14 per cent more of sweet wrappers being disposed of properly and litter decreasing by 15 per cent.
Couple this with a number of others that fit the area they are executed in and it’ll undoubtedly form an approach that is greater than the sum of its parts.
This might seem like a no brainer, but despite the fact Dublin has 26 bins per squared kilometre it’s not clear they are distributed adequately. Hotspots for high footfall like areas near pubs and public transport need the right kind of bins in higher numbers.
Opening a dialogue with the people that use the areas about what is needed is essential and having opportunities for feedback and discussion creates a clearer picture of what is needed.
While the partial pedestrianisation that has been introduced on a trial basis has been a welcome move, the lack of suitable communal spaces means that foot traffic is driven to a small number of areas.
It genuinely is as simple as creating more seating throughout the city and making more of the space accessible so there is not a few highly concentrated areas. While evidently there are social hotspots, creating conditions to make it as easy as possible to remain responsible is important. When the government has made it impossible for a huge portion of the population to afford homes, let alone ones with a garden area and actively encouraged people to gather outside this summer, the responsibility is on them to ensure safe and fully equipped spaces are easily accessible for all.
Closing off popular areas just moves people on to other spaces that are even less equipped to deal with heavy foot traffic and the subsequent effects of that.
There’s often fears that more bins lead to consolidation of waste in one area, an increase in illegal dumping and security issues among other complaints. However, it’s also about having the right kind of bins in hotspots for where people congregate. If we are having an outdoor summer there has to be a number of different bins available and they have to adequately labelled.
Additionally, the council could go one further and invest in technology. Baltimore’s solar-powered CleanCUBES used cloud software to optimize collection schedules with the bins identifying overflow and compressing waste inside to ensure there was a marked reduction in overflow and waste in the city.
No one singular approach will solve everything, but Bodytonic’s initiative with the ‘Bin It, To Win It‘ programme had the canal looking sparkly and clean over previous summer months while people enjoyed pints for their recycling efforts. While we can’t rely on one organisation to carry the burden of the capital’s litter problem, innovative cities like Curitiba in Brazil have created a programme where waste can be exchanged for public transport tokens and it’s shown to work well in tandem with other green initiatives.
When outdoor dining resumes, the powers that be need to seriously consider exchange schemes that actively incentivise cleaning up bottles and cans as part of a multi-faceted approach to looking after the city.
Elsewhere on District: Phoenix Park Pilot Event: Up to 3,500 attendees permitted next month