Local authorities increased environmental enforcement activities in 2018 and met their overall performance target.
Further improvements are required in aspects of their enforcement work and local authorities need to:
- make sure waste is segregated at source by businesses and householders to improve recovery;
- improve sharing of information on waste enforcement to ensure that illegal waste activities can be detected and prevented;
- increase farm inspection numbers to previous levels at a minimum, to protect our rivers and lakes; and
- coordinate action and increase enforcement of the Solid Fuel Regulations1 to improve air quality.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released its report on local authority environmental enforcement performance for 2018. The report shows that local authorities have increased their enforcement activities, with 168,000 inspections being undertaken in 2018, together with almost 20,000 enforcement actions and over 850 prosecutions initiated. Local authorities also managed over 78,000 environmental complaints during the year.
This report found that local authority inspection planning and implementation was effective and took into account national priorities. The EPA identified, however, areas where local authorities could improve their environmental enforcement.
Dr Tom Ryan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement said,
“This report shows overall good performance by the local authorities in undertaking their environmental enforcement functions, however there are areas where improvements are needed. In particular, more focus is needed on the enforcement of waste segregation in households and businesses, along with an increase in farm and air quality inspections. There is also an opportunity to improve information sharing between enforcement agencies to ensure that illegal waste activities are identified and tackled. The EPA will be engaging with local authorities to make this a priority in 2020.”
The EPA advises that local authorities need to focus on ensuring good segregation of waste by businesses and householders, to support better waste recycling. This includes increasing the roll-out of segregated collection (e.g. brown bins) and their use by the public and businesses. The EPA also found that there is a need to improve coordinated action, and the timely sharing of data, between local authorities and other enforcement bodies to address illegal waste activities.
The EPA found that local authorities need to increase inspection and enforcement actions to better regulate the burning of solid fuels. These inspections should focus on the sale and use of non-compliant fuels in low smoke zones and compliance with the sulphur content limit for fuel.
This report found that farm inspections had reduced by 650 and the EPA recommends that the number of inspections be returned to previous levels, at a minimum. The EPA also recommends that farm inspections should be targeted at areas where water quality is at risk.
While focussed on the work of local authorities, the EPA highlighted that the public has a pivotal role in addressing these environmental issues.
Commenting on the report, Valerie Doyle, Senior Inspector said:
“We all need to play our part addressing the environmental challenges facing us. This can include making sure we segregate our wastes at home and at work so that as much as possible is recycled. From an enforcement perspsective, the public should take responsibility for reporting environmental pollution by using the EPA’s SEE IT SAY IT smartphone app or by calling the National Environmental Complaints Line 1850 365 121 or their local authority.”