With the bill for street cleansing steadily rising, the local council has decided to adopt a new focus on a long-standing problem.
Now anyone caught throwing rubbish on the street could pick up a fixed penalty up to £80, or possibly face a court appearance.
The team will patrol towns and villages, actively identifying offenders and issuing fixed penalty notices for a range of offences, from dropping rubbish on the street to dog fouling.
Council Chair, Councillor Paul McLean said he hopes the move will act as a deterrent.
“I don’t want to see anyone getting a fine and I hope the very fact that there is a team dedicated to litter prevention out on the streets will make people think twice about where they put their rubbish,” he said.
He said bringing in an external contractor may help the council tackle a problem which has been difficult for staff.
He continued: “Littering is quite simply unacceptable, whether that’s throwing rubbish from your car, dumping rubbish on the side of the road or leaving your rubbish strewn across a street or local beauty spot.
“This new pilot programme is demonstrating a zero tolerance approach to anyone who litters and we make no apologies for taking action which will help us all enjoy cleaner neighbourhoods”.
Cleaning the streets is costing ratepayers approximately £1.7m a year and it’s a bill the Council aim to reduce.
Speaking as the first patrols got underway in the district on Tuesday, Chair of the Council’s Development Committee, Councillor Dominic Molloy, said: “We spend in excess of £1.7m every year on cleaning, and litter contributes to that cost.
“That’s money used needlessly on cleaning up after those who litter our towns and villages and could be better spent elsewhere.
“If cleaning comes at a cost to the Council and our ratepayers, it’s now time that it also comes at a cost to those who are causing the problem in the first place.
“Our message is clear: you mess up Mid Ulster, you’ll pay the price”.
The five-strong team of litter enforcement officers - WISE (Waste Investigations Support and Enforcement) will be working in shifts and providing a seven-day a week operation, including mornings and evenings.
The officers have been specially trained and will have body-worn cameras to protect the public and themselves.
According to information on the Council’s website the cameras are only switched on at the point when officers introduce themselves to someone and they will explain that the camera is in operation.
The camera is turned on during the conversation only. The recording can then be used as evidence in the event of a dispute or a future prosecution.
If you have received a notice and do not agree that you have committed the offence, then the next step for the Council is to take a prosecution case.
At this point the court will decide, based on all the evidence, whether an offence was committed and whether a penalty should or should not be imposed.