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City Challenge - Dumping & Waste


Status: LIVE (concept stage)


A 'City Challenge' is a large, complex, opportunity or issue with which the 'usual approach' is struggling and so requires a fresh approach, for which the timing is 'right', and which will likely require multiple BETA projects to explore. (Here's the 5 characteristics.)


Based on conversations with the public and with staff, a shortlist of two challenges were presented to the City Council's senior management team for consideration. 

They chose 'illegal dumping and waste' as the first City Challenge. 


A project team was formed with staff from across our Waste Department (for example it includes management, litter wardens and cleansing staff) and also staff who work within neighbourhoods.


We also teamed up with M.Co to co-explore this issue over a period of 27 working days (across several months). This very short phase was enough to gather some very useful information and to generate some key insights to enable this project to move to the solutions phase, and additonal research will be carried out, as necessary, as we proceed.

Here's is a summary presentation of some of the findings.

Some of the items that particularly stood out...

  • Local shops are a key (under-used) touchpoint for bag customers
  • As the largest landlord in the State, we have a point of influence
  • Many waste services feel like they were designed for a different type of living (car-dependant, private storage, stay-at-home parents, etc).
  • We need better data gathering
  • We don’t make the rules of waste easy to understand for our users
  • We produce lists that are not searchable (eg by Google).


We were thinking about 2 things:

1. The research told us that this issue isn't arising from a single reason but many - and spread across governance, infrastructure, social and individual reasons - and so will require a broad array of responses.

(Click to enlarge.)

2. How could we better consider the following issues whilst we're exploring this challenge?

How can we...

  • Improve waste services for the majority, whilst decreasing dumping which is by a minority?
  • Solve multiple existing problems and headaches whilst doing this?
  • Think about the range of lifestyles in modern society?
  • Ensure the waste service is great for all members of our society?
  • Tend towards simplicity rather than complexity?
  • Get the core / backbone right that will ensure future flexibity to change?
  • Ensure resilience?
  • Create models alongside existing processes?
  • Think about waste as an asset?
  • Think about future challenges and not just the issues of today? 
    (For example...the Climate Crisis, changing mobility patterns, apartment-living, urban-living, digital services and modern expectations, online shopping, recyclables, circular economy…)

We're going to focus on “Better Waste Services” rather than “Solve Dumping”.

Here's the 7 reasons why we are taking this approach: 

  1. This City Challenge arose from both citizen and staff suggestions – of which the majority of suggestions revolved around a variety of topics around waste, including a smaller number focussed on dumping. (Indeed, it's the reason why the hashtag/title for this project includes both the words dumping and waste as #DumpingWasteBETA.)
  2. As a ‘wicked problem’ (a challenge with multiple causes and feedback loops), attempting to solve the issue of illegal dumping will require a systemic perspective to ensure that we’re not just focussing on the resulting behaviours. Behaviour is an outcome of the interaction of 4 key forces as above – so this approach will ensure we consider the full range of forces in the system. This, in turn, will also increase the opportunities for spotting unexpected issues.
  3. Equally, it will enable us to think bigger. We will feel freer to also consider much bigger ideas (‘moonshots’) in addition to incremental changes.
    “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
  4. Dublin City Council is already exploring various approaches to “solve dumping” (eg Smart Dublin’s project). Focussing on better waste services will ensure we’re not overlapping with that work, and indeed those efforts (and previously-trialled approaches by our staff) can neatly fit within this project as necessary.
  5. Focussing on dumping will mean we’re focussed on the issues of today, whereas a focus on better services will also help us to future-proof our work ensuring it stays relevant longer. 
  6. If we aim to “improve waste services with trickle-down impacts on dumping”, we will get more bang for our buck in two ways. It will likely include items that we will have to explore at some stage in any case (eg waste-related councillor motions), and it will also have benefits for all citizens as opposed to only improving edge-cases. Ie we’re trying to solve for “most people” as opposed to a small minority.
  7. Finally, switching the focus to “better waste services” rather than “illegal dumping” ensures the project will have a positive tone and outlook, which will greatly help with the development and discussion of solutions with citizens and staff. Also, importantly, it will also give us a much wider cohort of people to trial with.

Under this overall approach, we will trial individual BETA Project solutions, and the expectation is that they - overall - will add up to our aim. 

What BETA Projects will we trial? 

The BETA Projects under this City Challenge will follow the same pattern as all BETA Projects to date...

  1. We will gather ideas and suggestions from anyone and everyone. (You can add more here.)
  2. We will prioritise all of these on a regular basis. 
  3. We will start at the top of the list, and work downwards, trialling the various ideas.
  4. We will scale whatever is found to work well. 

The plan is to approach this Challenge over 2 stages:

  1. Let’s first focus on how we might improve the existing.
  2. Following this, we then shift to exploring new ideas.

We have compiled all of the staff, citizen, business and councillor suggestions from the past few years into a single list. [The list has come in from all sorts of channels, over different time periods, and so we've some housework to do to make it easy for people to read and understand. Once that's done, we'll add a link to the full list here.] 

Trialling and Measuring Impact

Illegal dumping is an issue which occurs over a wider area, and measuring the impact of any individual trial interventions is that little bit harder. Therefore the plan is to pick a couple of 'trial areas' where we capture detailed metrics within, and where we will trial many of the ideas. 

These areas should be ‘Goldilocks Areas’ with a “little bit of everything”…that way we would hope to learn about what might work across multiple areas of the city. 

They should contain many of the following characteristics…

  • Urban, predominately domestic, predominately bag collection.
  • A clear neighbourhood boundary and name.
  • Single area-based-cleaning team covers entire area.
  • Entire area sits within a Waste Provider(s) area. 
  • Overlaps 2 boundaries: Collection Days, CCD/remainder
  • Entire area sits within Waste Provider(s).
  • Mostly bag streets, but with some bin streets or customers.
  • Contains key waste services such as Bottle Bank, but equally has the type of waste services that much of the city has (eg it shouldn't be too near a Civic Amenity Centre as there's only two of them in the city). 
  • Some dumping is occurring, but not a dumping hotspot of the city.
  • Proximity to the relevant staff to monitor trials. 
  • Mostly residential, but with some commercial.
  • Mix of Private and Social Housing
  • Mix of housing, apartments and multi-let flats/bedsits.
  • Not too rich, not too poor.
  • An area with Air BnB lettings
  • A mixture of Irish and other nationalities, and a mixture of languages.
  • Contains mixture of street types (main, residential, laneways, parks, etc)
  • Already-established residents groups.
  • Range of ages from children, families with children, students, older people.

We have chosen the areas of Stoneybatter and Portobello as the two trial locations. In essence, these will act as 'mini Dublins' (city centre Dublin anyway) where we hope our learnings will be transferrable to elsewhere in the city. 

At a later date, we may change trial areas (for example to begin to include an area with a high level of dumping or a suburban area). 

We'll soon be reaching out to residents and businesses in these areas to help us figure out good solutions that work well, and it's important to note that any trials carried out in these areas will be 'concept trials' and so will be fully removed at the end of the trial period.

We will be measuring impact at two levels - at the local project level (eg did the people using it find it to be a good solution, did it affect their waste practices, what did neighbours nearby think, etc) and at the neighbourhood level (did levels of dumping, or of waste or dumping practices, change at the wider neighbourhood level).  [We'll add some further detail on this latter aspect over the next few weeks.] 


As we develop individual BETA Project trials under this City Challenge, we'll list them below...

BETA Projects are always made fully public, and we'll be looking for your input and suggestions into all of these trials. 


If you've any suggestions for how we might improve waste services, or address illegal dumping, you can add them here



Get involved in the conversation below.