Beach Littering – It’ll Cost you

Its not a pretty picture is it, you’re at your favourite beach, wiggling your toes in the sand and suddenly you cut your toe on a piece of glass. You look around and see the culprits everywhere as wrappers are strewn around the place and cigarette butts are discarded, while an innocent seagull has its head stuck in a beer six pack holder that has been abandoned on the sand, but why is there so much junk on the beach?

Rubbish at Rathmullan beach

Rubbish at Rossnowlagh beach


Donegal is blessed with many sandy beaches but they are in danger of being tarnished by constant littering, which begs the question how did all this rubbish get here and what can we do about it?

We spoke to Martin Burke who has been a litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years. He urges people to act responsibly and take there waste home with them when they visit the beach this summer.

“Leaving litter on the beach is very detrimental to our environment as the amount of litter and plastic that is left on the beach has to go somewhere and as soon as the tide comes in all that litter is washed out with it. This in turn effects many aspects of our environment and pollutes our water and can harm a lot of sea life, plastic can stay in our water for hundreds of years and who knows were it could end up.

“We had massive problems with this during the winter storm with litter that washed up all over our coastline. Who knows were the litter originally came from”, says Martin.

Martin states the easy solution to this problem and says its one that we can all do and get involved in.

Martin Burke, worker as litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years

Martin Burke, worker as litter warden in Donegal County Council for 14 years


“My message to people going to the beach this summer would be to take your litter home, and leave the beach as you find it. Anyone that is caught littering on the beach will receive an on the spot fine which is €150. Hopefully this will make people think before dropping that wrapper or paper is it worth a fine?


Get involved

It is estimated that over 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic litter every year around the world. Marine and beach littering is recognized as a growing pressure on costal environments, Martin talks about ways people can get involved in helping to keep our beaches clean.

“Donegal County Council supply bags and gloves to people who want to get involved in beach clean ups. There is a great selection of initiatives to help keep our beaches clean, such as the Spring/Summer clean ups and the popular two minute beach cleans, which saw people from all over taking two minutes to clean a part of the beach and take a picture of it. People don’t realise but it’s the small things like this that can really make a difference as even though we would like to clean all the rubbish it is impossible to get it all. Any help is appreciated and it’s rewarding to be involved in something that is sustaining our county. We could help put a stop to polluting our waters and land if we just simply take our rubbish home, I mean it’s not rocket science,” laughed Martin.

 Keep Clean Please


What are the dangers of littering on our beaches?

  • Litter that’s thrown on the beach gets washed into the water and can contaminate it.
  • Plastic, one of the main sources of litter on beaches, can be deadly. Wildlife can get tangled in plastic loops that hold cans together, causing them to become injured or even die.
  • Anyone caught littering will be fined an on the spot fine of €150
  • Last year over 2 tonnes of rubbish (yes you read that right) was removed from Rossnowlagh beach.
  • If you want to report littering or illegal dumping contact Donegal County Council online at or call 074 91 53900


Suzanne says Reuse that Rubbish


(Suzanne Bogan)

One mans waste is another mans treasure as the saying goes. But what if we could waste no more?

Suzanne Bogan, Environmental Awareness officer for Donegal County Council talks rubbish and how to reuse it.

“I have been working with Donegal County Council for 10 years, and I’m usually talking about rubbish most of the time, she laughed.

“When we talk about waste we usually hear of the three R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The three R’s are an ethos we should all live by. First, reduce the amount of waste we produce, this can be as simple as opting for fruit and vegetables without the packaging when we do our shopping. Second, reuse by getting the most out of something, this is as simple as taking re-useable bags to the shops rather that paying 22cent for plastic bags or repairing an item rather than throwing it out. Third, recycling making sure that we recycle as much as we can.”

Suzanne says that there are recycling centres in numerous locations around Donegal and this should make it easier for us to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“Donegal County Council own six Recycling Centres now operated by Bryson Recycling, these centres are large scale collections points for over 20 different items. A large number of items can be recycled for free including glass, cans, aerosols, batteries, scrap metal, all electrical goods such as a television, cooker, fridge freezer or even a games console. There is also a charged area where you can bring a standard car full of papers, hard plastic, cardboard, cartons, used engine and used cooking oil for only €4 per car load. The six recycling centres are located at Letterkenny, Stranorlar, Milford, Carndonagh, Dungloe and Laghey.

“The Council also provide Bring Banks for the recycling of glass, cans and clothes at over 70 locations through the county. It is free to recycle glass, can and clothes. All colours of glass bottles and jars can now be placed into any glass bank. We always ask that the public never leave any empty boxes or bags or household waste at the banks as this is considered littering and illegal dumping.”

“The good news is it is working; householders in Donegal are now recycling 40% of their waste. Over the last number of years a wide range of recycling services has been established and the introduction of various regulations for things like, the free recycling of electrical goods and batteries have also helped greatly, so people are really getting on the band wagon.”

A key part of Suzanne’s job is to work with schools around the county.


(Exhibition of photos in the school)

“The schools environmental education programme is an essential part of my work. I provide information, deliver recycling and composting workshops, organise schools competitions and support and promote the Green Schools Programme, and the pupils really love it which makes it easier to get them to carry recycling on into adulthood. The green schools programme has been a great success in Donegal with 139 Green Flags flying. The programme covers Waste and Litter, Energy, Water, Travel, Biodiversity and Global Citizenship.”


(Edeninfagh Prize-giving)

Suzanne says the statistics on how much food we waste each year is shocking and urges people to take the ‘stop food waste’ challenge and leave that extra portion out of the pot.

“If I said each household was wasting €700 – €1,000 each year you would be shocked, but that is the truth and we are wasting it on food waste. The national stop food waste campaign has a number of key elements to “Stop Food Waste”. 1.Be a savvy shopper, beware of BOGOF (Buy one get one free) they are great for toiletries but not for perishables especially fruits and vegetables. 2. Storage, find out where the best place is to store each type of food and check the freezer for U.F.O’s (unidentified frozen objects), clear them out to make room for new food and label your food as you freeze it so you know what it is and when it went in. 3. Canny Cooking, portion size is something that we all need to consider. Are you always ending up with food left over, usually we add in some extra pasta just to be sure! If you do have leftovers try and make another meal from it rather than throwing it out. The futures bright, the future’s green, she mused.”

Side Bar

  • Householders in Donegal now recycle 40% of waste.
  • For more information on recycling centres visit
  • There are over 70 bottle bank locations throughout Donegal.
  • Home compost bins are available from all Council offices for only €13.
  • There are 139 Green Flags flying in Donegal.
  • We waste between €700 – €1,000 on food waste each year.
  • For more ideas on the stop food waste challenge visit
  • 1/3 of our waste can be composted.
  • It’s free to recycle all electrical goods and batteries.

It’s a Dirty Job and Brian’s got to do it!


“During my time as a litter warden I have seen some shocking illegal dumping sites.” 

Illegal dumping has been a consistent problem in Ireland for years but what is it doing to our beautiful emerald county? And how can we stop it?   Litter warden for Donegal County Council Brian Mc Brearty highlights the issue and has us thinking twice about throwing that wrapper out the window.

“I’ve worked in the council for 9 years now and during my time as a litter warden for the Stranorlar Electoral Area I have seen some shocking illegal dumping sites. The one that sticks out in my mind and really makes me angry is when we were called to a resource centre that had a playschool quite close by. There were around 30 bags with broken bottles in them and there were even hypodermic needles in a few of them.  “The job entails daily patrols of areas that have previously been dumped on and calling out to sites that have been dumped on. It can be a busy week, we rely a lot on the public contacting us and reporting any sites where they see rubbish dumped as we can’t see everything.” Image

(Shocking dumping site before)


(And after)

The most frequently asked question we get is if I see rubbish dumped somewhere how can I report it?

“If a person comes across illegal dumping the quickest thing to do is to contact the Council on 074 91 53900, they can phone in anonymously if they want.  But we prefer if you phone in and give your name or number and give the location of the dumping site as it makes it much easier for us.”

Brian urges people to stop dumping or face the consequences that come with the crime.

“We now use covert cameras more and more.  They are out there in various locations throughout the county and we use them to help us catch illegal dumpers.

These cameras have proven to be very successful, especially in rural areas, we have had some good results with them. We have issued fines to people and they have denied it but once they see the footage of themselves dumping, they then pay the fine as it is hard to argue when they are caught on camera.”

“We all have a part to play in stoping this behaviour.  Some people think it is okay to throw things out the car window or thinking its okay to dump that black bin liner in the countryside.

It is a problem yes; our fines are on the increase and we are certainly finding more evidence and more incidents of illegal dumping, but the technology that we are now using is a huge bonus, it’s the equivalent of having an extra man or extra pair of eyes on the ground 24 – 7, and that has helped increase the output of fines.”


  • You can report illegal dumping by calling Donegal County Council at 07491 53900
  • Donegal County Council issued 317 littering fines or fixed penalty notices last year alone.
  • A littering fine or fixed penalty notice cost the culprit anything from €150 to €3,000.
  • The Council has set aside over €780,000 in the 2014 Revenue Budget for litter management throughout Donegal.