Cigarette butts make up more than half of litter

Despite a significant decline in the number of smokers in recent years, cigarette butts still make up more than half of the litter on our streets.

According to HSE statistics, 17.5% of people were smokers in 2017 down from 21.5% in 2013. Yet, the latest National Litter Pollution Report has revealed that last year 56.3% of litter across the local authorities was cigarette-related, predominantly butts. And the report found there was an almost 1% increase in the prevalence of cigarette litter compared to the previous year.

Also up, this time by 3.3% to 17.6%, is the amount of packaging litter such as cardboard, paper, bottles, glass and cans.

Food litter is the third most prevalent litter at 9%, down 7.3% compared to 2016. Chewing gum makes up a significant amount of this category. Sweet-related litter stands at 7.9%.

As to who is causing the litter, the report found pedestrians are the biggest culprits at 42.1% followed by motorists (19.7%) and retail outlets (10.3%). Fast food outlets account for 4.1% and schools and school children for 3.6%.

On a more positive note, the report found that:

  • 15.6% of areas surveyed were litter free, the second highest level ever achieved and an increase of 2.4% when compared to 2016 results.
  • 63.9% of areas surveyed were only slightly littered.
  • The percentage of moderately polluted areas has decreased by 0.9% to 17.1% from 18% in 2016.
  • The percentage of significantly polluted areas has decreased by 0.3% to 3% when compared to 2016 data.
  • However, the percentage of grossly polluted areas has remained constant at 0.3%.

Environment Minister Denis Naughten welcomed the high number of areas that were litter free.

“The results also demonstrate that over 79% of all areas surveyed in 2017 were deemed to be either litter free or only slightly polluted so this is very welcome news,” he said.

I would like to commend the local authorities who work closely with the communities they serve and are continuing to make progress in the ongoing battle against litter pollution across the country.

He said smokers could bring about a significant improvement in the litter situation through relatively minor behavioural changes.

“Everyone must accept that, ultimately, it is their own actions that will ensure whether or not we live in a litter free environment,” he said.

Meanwhile, an RTÉ Investigates programme to be broadcast tonight has ranked local authorities for their level of investment in waste regulation and enforcement to combat illegal dumping.

While Donegal is found to be the worst performing, Cork city and county councils are also found wanting.

The programme ranks Cork County Council 27th of the 30 councils analysed. It found that between 2015 and 2016 Cork County Council spent €8.78 per person on waste services, almost half the national average of €17.22. Furthermore, it said Cork County had some of the lowest waste staffing levels in the country — the council has under two members of staff for 78 waste permits in effect.

“Cork County is in the bottom five for three categories, non-routine waste inspections, staffing levels and enforcement actions,” RTÉ said.

Cork City Council is ranked 20th of the 30 councils analysed.

“Between 2015 and 2016 Cork City spent €14 per person on waste services, €3.22 less than the national average of €17.22,” the programme’s makers said. “Cork City is in the top five for routine waste inspections and staffing levels and in the bottom five to for enforcement actions and prosecutions. Cork City took no enforcement actions for waste offences between 2014 and 2016 — the average for county councils was 110.”

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