In County Louth we saw our responsibilities under the Litter Pollution Act, 1997 as being twofold, the first and most important being that of enforcement and the second part being education and awareness which is vital in bringing about a sustained improvement in our environment.
Three full-time litter wardens were appointed and charged with the onerous task of identifying offenders and taking appropriate action against them. The litter wardens, each employed separately by the three local authorities in the County, viz. Louth County Council, Dundalk Urban District Council and Drogheda Corporation, work flexible hours, including late nights/ early mornings in the hopes of detecting those responsible for littering our streets with fast-food packaging and also to check that the fast-food outlets themselves are fulfilling their obligations under the Litter Pollution Act.
The wardens occasionally work on Sundays too and regularly work together in each other's territories, particularly when working outside of normal working hours. Of course they also play a part in education and awareness by visiting schools to discuss litter and its associated problems with the school children and by calling into the various retail outlets and business with educational literature and anti-litter posters.
Drogheda Corporation recruited the most recent member of the team in April 2000. In the year 1999 a total of 1008 Fixed Penalty Notices were issued in this county.
Education and Awareness
When our Litter Management Plan was being prepared in 1998 we went through an extensive consultation process involving local Tidy Towns groups, residents' associations, schools, businesses, sporting organisations, Gardai, etc., in order to encompass all views and prepare the most comprehensive plan possible. One suggestion was that a 'character' should be developed that would be the public face of the anti-litter campaign in County Louth.
'Auntie-Litter Bug', Louth's anti-litter 'character,' was born out of a sketch designed by a local secondary school pupil. A 'Design-a-Character' competition was held amongst secondary school pupils in the County. The winning design was selected by a graphics company from a short-list of the many entries received and the prototype was developed by the company and subsequently made into a costume character.
Auntie-Litter Bug was officially launched in Dundalk in March 2000 along with other promotional material. She arrived at the venue by helicopter in the company of TV and radio personality, Derek Mooney, and was welcomed by local dignitaries. The event was covered by the local media and Auntie-Litter Bug proved to be an instant hit with the children attending the event, and since then with the many children she has met during her regular visits to schools, being chaperoned on these occasions by our litter wardens!
The following promotional material bearing the Auntie-Litter Bug emblem was developed and launched in conjunction with Auntie-Litter Bug:
Posters for take-away outlets;
Posters for banks re. litter emanating from ATM machines;
Pencil boxes (awarded as prizes to students participating in schools' competitions);
"Litter Alert" leaflets aimed at motorists and currently being distributed with motor taxation discs; and
T-shirts and balloons incorporating Auntie-Litter Bug's catchy slogan "Lovely Louth Loathes Litter."
It is our wish to develop the role played by Auntie-Litter Bug and to make her synonymous with everything that is worthwhile protecting in our environment.
Action Against Litter Video
In Louth we have a voluntary committee, known as the Environment 21 Committee, which is comprised of 14 members (representatives from each of the local authorities in the county) together with administrative staff from the Environment Section of Louth County Council. One of the initiatives of this committee was the preparation of a video entitled 'Action Against Litter'. The video is in three parts: the 'Beauty of our County' which shows some of the scenic areas throughout the county; the 'Evil that Haunts Us' depicting litter blackspots in the county; and 'The Law' which demonstrates in pictures and words offences under the Litter Pollution Act and penalties which may be imposed on offenders.
Several copies of the video have been made and they now form a lending library for schools and community groups. The video is also used to complement school visits.
Because of our successful application for funding under this year's Grants for Anti-Litter Initiatives, Louth Local Authorities will be able to build on Auntie-Litter Bug's existing popularity over the coming months with a view to further increasing awareness by undertaking a series of initiatives as outlined below.
1. Auntie-Litter Bug will take on the role of editor of a newsletter to be produced and circulated to every house in the county. The newsletter will highlight the success of litter enforcement in the county to-date, highlight individual responsibility under the Litter Pollution Act, encourage individual action in clean-ups and participation in National Spring Clean, and will invite suggestions for broadening the awareness campaign.
2. Professionally designed and produced litter alert signs, incorporating Auntie-Litter Bug's image, will be erected throughout the county as a constant reminder to the public that a litter alert is in operation. Litter alert signs, pre-dating Auntie-Litter Bug, have already been erected at various litter blackspots and have proven to be very successful.
3. An inflatable or sheet-aluminium version of Auntie-Litter Bug will be made and used throughout the county to promote specific clean-ups that Auntie herself will attend.
4. A bookmark incorporating Auntie's image and her slogan will be produced for distribution by litter wardens during their school visits.
5. A small enamel image of Auntie-Litter Bug is being made which will be sold by schools and tidy towns groups to raise funds for the implementation of local litter management plans in their areas.
6. A third series of posters will be produced, this time aimed at sweet shops and grocery shops.
7. A series of local radio advertisements, involving Auntie-Litter Bug, are being developed to further increase awareness.
8. An annual "Hands Across the Border" anti-litter event is held with our neighbours in Newry & Mourne District Council (Northern Ireland) as we all acknowledge that litter recognises no boundaries, and neither should we in tackling the problem.
We are confident that our sustained programme of activities, led by Auntie-Litter Bug and her litter wardens, will ensure that "Lovely Louth Loathes Litter" will progress from being just a slogan to a reality.
For further details on Auntie-Litter Bug or on any other aspect of the Louth Local Authorities' approach to litter prevention, please contact Mary Murtagh at Louth County Council, County Hall, Millennium Centre, Dundalk, Co. Louth or phone 043 933 5457.