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An interview with a street cleaner for Dublin City Council

Dermot Cooney has been cleaning the streets of Dublin city for over 10 years. As a street cleaner with Dublin City Council, he is aware of a very big issue in society: Rubbish on our streets. Listen to this professional.

The rubbish is increasing because the population is increasing. Plus, there is a lot more dumping now, on the streets and laneways

Above: Dermot Cooney and his compact street sweeper unit. Photo Credit: Jackie Costa Ribeiro

Dermot Cooney has worked for more than 10 years on the streets of Dublin. Cleaning, watching and greeting passersby with a good morning or a good afternoon. He is considerate and respectful, a true professional. He agreed to give this interview on his break, and talked about the importance of his work to society.

“My area is O’Connell street, Henry street, Liffey street. We clean all the streets all around Dublin city centre.”, Dermot explains. As a street cleaner with Dublin City Council, Dermot and his compact street sweeper unit make a difference; they make the city a better place. He does an amazing job and he does not criticise society for the litter that he is forced to clean up. When asked if he believes if the volume of rubbish in the city is increasing, he replies that “the rubbish is increasing because the population is increasing. Plus, there is a lot more dumping now, on the streets and laneways because they privatised all the bins and a lot of people don’t want to pay for them. So, we have a lot of dumping in Dublin city centre”, he said.

The chart below shows the wide variety of notifications and complaints received by Dublin City Council in 2014 and recorded on the CRM system. The percent age relating to each category is also shown for 2014.

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“People have to pay for their household rubbish now“, he continued. “Years ago they didn’t, it was (included) in their household tax. Then they got rid of that and they privatised it all and now they have to pay. But some people (for example) in the flats don’t pay, so they dump bags here and there, you know”.

As Dermot mentions, the problem of illegal dumping and the use of public litter bins for household waste is a major problem for Dublin City Council. This issue has been made a key focus area in Dublin City Council’s 2016 – 2018 Litter Management Plan. Dublin City Council, for example, has Litter Wardens, who issue on the spot fines and bring prosecutions against litter offenders, with the help of CCTV. Rubbish bins in the city have also been re-designed over the years, to try to prevent people from illegally filling them with household rubbish.

“Most of the dumping is in laneways and side streets, they leave their black bags and their small bags there. You wouldn’t see it on the main thoroughfares because (we have) vans that sweep and clean them”.

Dublin City at a Glance. Source: Litter Management Plan 2016-2018. Photo Credit: Dublin City Council

No one likes cleaning. But it is an extremely important job. The question is who is doing the littering and dumping and how can it be prevented? Dermot believes that to address the problem, there should be “more campaigns, more posters, about litter.  Both Irish people and tourists (are littering)”, he said.  “Everybody does it, every day. People from the flats dump bags in the bins instead of buying a tag and paying for it. There should be more of an educational campaign about (littering and dumping) because people are not reading about it. (With litter wardens) out there catching them, and giving fines, it might get the message across to them”.

Currently, if found littering in a public place in Dublin, you can receive an on-the-spot fine of €150. In spite of this, people continue to litter and dump. “It’s the ordinary people that are dumping”, Dermot said. “The retailers have their own bin companies who take away their rubbish”. As Dermot mentions, under the Litter Pollution Acts 1997 – 2009, businesses have to make sure that the area outside their premises is clean and is swept regularly.

The government run the country. So you have to do what they say.

Dermot believes that it is important for the government to run more anti-litter campaigns. “The government run the country”, he said. “So you have to do what they say, you know what I mean”. For example , publicly run anti-graffiti campaigns such as Dublin Canvas, that was begun in 2015, to decorate traffic signal boxes around the city, have proven to be very successful. Citizens also can be made more aware of dog fouling, illegal dumping and littering through signage and educational campaigns like the Green Schools Programme, which educates students about the environment. As Dermot explained, this is the future.

Dermot’s compact street sweeper is a very impressive machine, which helps him to carry out his work. Dublin City Council has invested in more such units, as well as power washing units and leaf removers. Smart technology is also being examined, such as smart litter bins that can alert when they are full.

Dermot Cooney and his compact street sweeper unit makes the world a better place. Photo Credit: Jackie Costa Ribeiro

Let’s pull up our sleeves and give Dermot a hand! Every year Dublin City Council organises Team Dublin Cleanup, where volunteers clean up the villages, canals, rivers and coastal areas of Dublin. Dublin City Council provides all the necessary equipment and collects the rubbish afterwards. So, find out what your local area is planning and let’s get stuck in!

Above: Source: Photo Credit: Dublin City Council.

Litter Management Plan 2016-2018 – Dublin City Council


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