At 12pm on a recent Saturday, the Crumlin Community Clean-up group gathered more than 30 bags of rubbish, a black keyboard, and a broken push-scooter and piled it all up next to a wall at the top of Armagh Road in Crumlin.
“I don’t mind doing this, it’s a great social activity and a nice way to meet your neighbours,” says Kevin Murphy, a Crumlin Community Clean-up volunteer.
But they could be working on something else like better green spaces, says Trevor Clowry, one of the organisers. “Rather than just cleaning up litter every week.”
Members of the group have picked up more than 2,500 bags of rubbish over the last two years. But they don’t see the problem improving, says Clowry.
Clowry says there is one simple solution to this problem: more public bins.
That’s a long-standing demand from cleaner-uppers in this part of the city, which has among the fewest bins of any neighbourhood according to a recent comparison.
Volunteers in Crumlin want greater engagement from the council and a commitment in its draft waste plan that they’ll get that.
A spokesperson for the council says that it will examine the number and location of public litter bins to assess whether there is a shortage of bins in the Crumlin area.
“We try to alternate where we clean up each week,” says Clowry. Behind him, his two daughters play on a scooter they’ve found.
Over the years the Crumlin volunteers have stumbled on frozen chickens, a Christmas ham, face masks, and gun ammo.
Litter issues in Crumlin seem interminable, says Clowry.
Since the council began to remove public bins in 2008, Clowry feels that local residents have been acting as their replacement.
The council has said it takes out public bins because of people dumping household waste in them, says Clowry.
But “what that leads to is people throwing it on the ground and groups like ourselves collecting and it giving back to [the council] anyway”, he says. (The council collects the bags.)
The council removes bins when they are not being used, if they are continually vandalised or being used for the disposal of household waste, a spokesperson for the council said.
But they did not respond to a query as to when they started removing public bins.
Crumlin has among the fewest public bins of any Dublin neighbourhood, according to a chart put together by Kevin Lynch, the chief technology officer at Information Lab Ireland.
Two of its five electoral districts feature in the bottom 20 list, which relies on data from data.gov.ie. Crumlin A, which stretches from Goldenbridge Walk to Mourne Road has one public bin and Crumlin E, that’s Mourne Road to Crumlin Road, has no bins.
The wider area of Dublin south west is also shaded red. Meaning that part of the city as a whole is bin-deprived.
Lynch has a masters in sustainability with a focus on climate change, he says. In his spare time, he makes data visualisations to highlight social and sustainability issues.
Lynch says he remembers when the council was getting rid of bins. “It seemed like something out of a Flann O’Brien novel.”
As he understands it, when the bin service was privatised, some people began illegal dumping — so the council decided to get rid of the public bins, says Lynch. “This just made no sense at all.”
Dublin City Council’s draft litter management plan, which will be considered at the next environment committee on 22 October lists the council targets for the next two years.
Among them: more handcarts for council waste collectors, a campaign to promote the council’s scheme where the public can scan QR codes on bins to notify the council if the bin is overflowing or damaged, more engagement between the council and An Garda Síochána, and continuing to engage with residents and businesses.
Volunteers at Crumlin Community Cleanup sent in 72 suggestions for what they think is needed, to a recent public consultation.
The first suggestion: “More bins, more bins, more bins.”
The draft plan does say the council intends to do that. “The stock of public litter bins in use will be maintained and improved,” it says.
The council will put in “high capacity units” in areas of need, it says. And “upgrading of bins will be ongoing in urban villages and additional bins will be installed in areas of need”, it says.
It’ll continue to roll-out solar-compactor bins in places where there’s demand or seasonal demand, it says. (Some have questioned whether putting in bigger bins will mean fewer bins — as a past council tender suggested — and so more litter.)
Back at the Crumlin clean up, Clowry says he was disappointed to see the roll-out of 110 smart bins in the Docklands last year, when it’s clear there is a severe litter issue around here.
“Litter bins are generally not installed in primarily residential areas accepting where a significant litter generator is located within such areas,” a spokesperson for the council said.
More transparency around where bins are put in is another of the Crumlin group’s suggestions – this hasn’t made it into the draft plan.
Derbhle Crotty, standing with a litter picker in hand, says: “The council seem to be making a judgement that if public bins were put in Crumlin people would be putting their household waste in it. That’s not fair.”
Social Democrat Councillor Tara Deacy says a forum needs to be created for groups like Crumlin Community Clean-up to meet with Dublin City Council and discuss these issues.
“The community groups are going off doing their thing and there is no communication between the two of them,” says Deacy.
A forum would allow the community groups to tell the council about the three washing machines they saw in the River Poddle on the weekend and then the council can act accordingly, she says.
Clowry wants to see more targeted plans though. “The council needs to work with local groups and us to come up with a litter action plan specific for the Crumlin/Kimmage area,” he said, by email.