Waterford City Council has mounted a successful crackdown on illegal dumpers, commonly known as ‘the man in the van’.

Detailed in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on Waste Enforcement which was published last week, the Council details a ‘sting’ operation it undertook in May 2006.

Having identified a series of advertisements in the Waterford media in which waste collection services were offered, the City Council set about its task.

“Instead of the traditional reactive approach of finding illegally dumped waste and trying to identify the owners, Waterford City Council decided on a more proactive strategy of actually contacting and confronting the operators,” reads the case study.

The City Council’s waste enforcement team “trawled” through local publications, collecting the numbers of 10 individuals who offered waste collection services. Over a two-week spell, all 10 operators were contacted by the team.

The report continues: “Operating in a team of two officers, (the enforcement team) would acquire a house for a day from the Waterford City Council Housing Department.

“The team would telephone the illegal operator and inform that that they had waste to be collected.”

Litter warden Paul Flynn explained how the operation worked. “We would get the illegal operator to commit themselves,” he says in the report. “We would inform them that we had a mattress, a sideboard and several black bags of rubbish and they would agree to a price.”

With the price in place, the team then waited for the illegal operator to arrive at the house. Upon the operator’s arrival, the team identified itself as authorised officers working under the Waste Management Acts.

States the report: “They would show the illegal operator the relevant legislation, inform him of their powers under the Acts, caution him and issue him with a formal verbal warning and a written warning. This was followed up with a warning letter by post.”

On legal advice, the team had to offer the operators such warnings as any action that could have been taken against individuals during the operation could have led to entrapment proceedings being taken against the Council.

“In order to prevent the illegal operators warning each other, several different houses were used during the ‘sting’ over the two-week period to maintain the element of surprise.”

The operation led to a reduction in the level of illegal waste collectors advertising in the media. The City Council intends to use this successful method of identifying illegal collectors during future operations.

The Council’s waste enforcement team has identified “many of the different operators and their vehicles” within the city boundary “and is now conducting surveillance against them”.

According to the EPA’s Environmental Enforcement Director, the identification and “systematic tackling” of those engaged in unauathorised waste activity can only be welcomed.

But, warned Dara Lynott, “there is no room for complacency, as challenges – such as increased illegal collection, fly tipping of waste and poor management of construction and demolition waste – remain”.