Dartry Park. Photo by Zuzia Whelan

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A couple of weeks back, Gerry Callanan noticed that some rubbish bins along his dog-walking route in Dartry Park, and nearby Orwell Park, had disappeared.

There had been three in Dartry Park, he said, last Friday morning, as he walked his black spaniel Cleo, throwing a tennis ball across the green for her to catch. Now there’s just one by the park entrance.

Five years ago, there were way more bins, he says. “I think it’s their policy to take them out,” he says, of Dublin City Council.

The official line from the council’s press office is that the council regularly removes bins that are not “optimal” for an area.

A response from Senior Executive Parks Superintendent Michael Noonan to Green Party Councillor Patrick Costello gives a bit more detail though.

In this case, the bins were removed because one council department empties one kind of bin, and another section of the council removes another kind of bin, and these bins were confusing matters so they were taken out, the email suggests.

Take It Home?

On two concrete stumps where bins used to stand in Dartry Park, there are now large piles of bagged dog waste. “People decided they’d keep putting their rubbish there,” Callanan says.

Park-goers often organise clean-ups, he says. “But there’s nowhere to put the rubbish if you pick it up.”

The bins in Dartry Park and the one in Orwell Park – which were both provided by Parks Services – were removed as they were “predominantly used for dog waste and other litter”, Noonan told Costello.

“Parks Staff do not empty dog litter bins, which is a function undertaken by waste management,” wrote Noonan, so for hygiene reasons, the litter bins in Dartry and Orwell Parks have been removed, he said.

Costello, of the Green Party, says it’s important that there are bins inside parks. “Because that’s where fouling happens.”

Ripping bins out of parks will have a knock-on impact: littering and illegal dumping, Costello said. “It really seems that we’re moving away from the desired outcome because of solving the wrong problem,” he said.

Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey said the removal of these bins was “a false policy, designed for the waste management people”.

“It doesn’t make sense, particularly along routes where people walk,” Lacey said.

Bring It Home

So where are people supposed to put litter and dog poo? In their pockets, perhaps.

Emptying the bins is “time consuming, with high waste disposal costs”, Noonan says in his email to Costello. And “because the bins are contaminated with dog poo and food items, it is very difficult to recycle their contents, and the majority of the waste goes directly to landfill”.

So Parks Services officials prefer to “encourage the public to bring their litter home”, he said. There, they can dispose of it in a more environmentally-friendly way, rather than “the inefficient manner currently in operation”, he said.

A spokesperson for the council said it regularly reviews how to collect and dispose of waste from public parks and is looking at ways to do it better – and ways to ensure that as much can be recycled as possible, rather than chucked into a landfill.

“There is an ongoing programme of replacement of bins and installation of new bin types to encourage recycling,” they said.

The council is putting in new bins and upgrading old bins at the moment, and taking some out where they don’t seem needed, and trying out hi-tech bins such as solar compactors too, they said. (Some parts of the city are way better served by bins than others.)

At the moment, there are 341 bins in public parks. “In most instances, the litter bins were removed as it was considered that there was an excessive number present, taking account of the size of the park and proximity to residences,” the council spokesperson said.

What Now?

It’s mainly dog waste being left where the bins were, said Callanan, last Friday. So regular dog-waste bins could be put in, but they’re probably too small. “I think they should put back the bins,” he says.

He uses the bin near the end of Orwell Park. Most others, though, just plop their waste on the ground now, right where the old bins once were.

It’s winter. But “what happens when the GAA and soccer clubs come back?” Callanan asks.

Zuzia Whelan

Zuzia Whelan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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