OPINION: A shameful blight on our beautiful Donegal landscape and Covid-19 is no excuse

A view of Donegal through the coronavirus crisis and beyond

Is there a rise in illegal dumping in Donegal coinciding with the Covid-19 crisis?

Is there a rise in illegal dumping in Donegal coinciding with the Covid-19 crisis? Photo Siobhán McNamara

Some days I feel like Irish society is divided into people who dump rubbish wherever they like and those who pick it up.

Today was one of those days.

On arriving at work this morning I took a walk to a place near the centre of Donegal Town that a few people had brought to my attention. 

Despite what I was told and what I have seen of illegal dumping before, I was shocked. Countless soiled nappies spilled from some of the 50 or so bags, many of which had been torn open by animals. 

In the midst of the nappies and the food waste was a yellow hand-crocheted blanket. It looked very out of place poking out of an old shopping bag and I found it sad that someone had most likely made it with a lot of love to welcome the arrival of a newborn baby. It felt very wrong that it ended up in such a foul and unpleasant setting.

Our local representatives and council staff are doing their utmost to tackle this problem with the resources - physical and legislative - available to them. But it is a tough battle against what can only be described as a serious attitude problem.

I got another phone call this afternoon about a similar situation not too far from this morning’s site. And near my own home on a stretch of road with natural forestry and steep banks, black bags are regularly discarded. 

Then there is the roadside litter of coffee cups, plastic bottles, fast food packaging and a growing number of used latex or plastic gloves thrown from passing vehicles. And that is without even starting on what ends up in the sea.

Our waste disposal facilities are still open. Bin collections are still operating. Covid-19 is no excuse for this behaviour.

I don’t know if it is the same everywhere in the world. On one hand I hope not, on the other it would be horrible to think it was a uniquely Irish characteristic.

Thankfully there is another side to this. Volunteers regularly pick up litter from roadsides, beaches and beauty spots. Sometimes this involves what should be considered hazardous work due to the nature of the dumped materials and the location. I covered a dumping story a few years ago after being contacted by a man who set about clearing a dumping site near his home during his annual leave. And on that occasion too, there was bag upon bag of soiled nappies.

Thank goodness we have people who care enough to clean up, otherwise we would be swamped.

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