Litter in Irish cities reaches worst level in a decade, study finds

Jamie Mc Carron 

A survey from Irish Businesses Against Litter (IBAL) has found that littering in cities has deteriorated to levels “not seen in ten years,” but most towns have improved from 2020.

Dublin’s North inner city was the worst ranked of the 40 areas surveyed across the country while Portlaoise nabbed the position of the least-littered area surveyed.

Notably, Portlaoise was at the bottom of the list in 2010 and its current position has been praised by environmental NGO an Taisce as being the result of “years of concerted effort and steady improvement.”

For the first time since 2014, Dublin’s North Inner City was deemed a litter blackspot.

Of the 25 sites in the area surveyed, only two of them were found to be clean, and 17 were “heavily littered” or worse.

South Limerick city, Drogheda, the Ballybeg area of Waterford and Dublin’s City Centre also ranked near the bottom of the list.

Galway, Ballymun and Tallaght had recorded significant yearly improvement however IBAL’s spokesperson, Conor Horgan was disappointed that other areas could not match this progress.

“We had seen a gradual if unspectacular clean-up of the North Inner City over the past seven years, but recent surveys suggest this has unravelled. Nearby Ballymun has improved a lot in the past 24 months – why can’t the same happen in this area?” he said in the report.

He added that the survey “painted a bleak picture for cities.”

The survey also found an increase of almost 30% in the amount of Covid-19 facemasks discarded on Irish streets and a rise in empty alcohol cans and bottles.

“We’re still dropping them at an alarming rate and they are still not being picked up,” Horgan said.

“We are consuming more outdoors and this is translating into more food- and drink-related litter.”

Despite this, the survey showed a 20% drop in coffee cup litter. There was also a steep fall-off in cigarette butts.

Following Portlaoise, the next cleanest areas in the country were found to be Leixlip, Ennis, Arklow, Dun Laoghaire and Kilkenny.

Of the 103 such sites exposed last year, fewer than half have been cleaned up in 2021, according to the group.

Cork’ City Centre, as well as Mahon and the city’s Northside all ranked in the littered category, less than ten places from the bottom position..

Cork City Council stated that an element of personal responsibility  “must be brought to bear to resolve the scourge of littering and illegal dumping.”

“We cannot solve the problem of littering on our own,” the council said.

“Tackling this issue must be done in conjunction and partnership with all sectors of society, including building/landowners and other bodies who have responsibility for the upkeep of certain aspects of public infrastructure.”

Jamie Mc Carron

Image Credit: Jamie Mc Carron