The latest litter league table, published today by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL), shows that 88% of the 25 towns surveyed by An Taisce for IBAL, were deemed clean — a slight improvement on the previous year, with 40% adjudged to be cleaner than the European average.
In contrast, of the 15 city areas surveyed, six occupied the bottom seven places in the rankings: Cork North City, Mahon on the city’s southside, Dublin North Inner City, Ballybane in Galway, Ballymun in Dublin, and Galvone in Limerick.
Of those, none was judged to be a litter blackspot, and only Galvone was designated as “seriously littered”, with IBAL pointing to little improvement in several sites previously found to be seriously littered.
“This suggests the city council are not getting to grips with the litter problem in the area,” the report for this area said.
Ennis, Roscommon, and last year’s winner, Kildare, will vie today for the title of Ireland’s cleanest town, with Environment Minister Denis Naughten due to make the announcement in Dublin.
Waterford has been named the country’s cleanest city, while Tallaght, previously a litter blackspot, climbed to fifth in the rankings and was deemed “Cleaner than European Norms”.
Castlebar and Portlaoise progressed strongly in the rankings, but Navan and Carlow both fell to “moderately littered”.
While still classed as littered, Dublin’s north inner city recorded its best-ever performance since it was first surveyed in 2011.
Continuing a trend of recent years, litter levels increased in Dublin city centre towards the end of the year.
“The council have been successful in keeping our capital clean for the peak summer season, but less so when it is over. Cleanliness is not just for tourists — it should be year-long,” IBAL spokesman Conor Horgan said.
But IBAL said progress in cities has been much slower than in towns, and much less consistent.
“In this latest survey, for example, we have seen reversals in recent improvements in Dublin city centre and Ballymun, as well as in Galway city’s Ballybane and Mahon in Cork, in a way that we have not witnessed in towns,” Mr Horgan said.
“This points to a lack of community involvement which is essential to keeping an area free of litter over time.”
And he said it is no coincidence the worst performing areas in the rankings are among the least affluent in the country, as defined by the Pobal Deprivation Index.
“Products of poor planning, disadvantaged communities are prone to litter on two fronts,” he said.
“In the first instance, they tend to be neglected by the local authority which concentrates their cleaning efforts on city centre locations.
“This is compounded by an absence of pride in the locality in these areas, where communities are often transient and amenities lacking.”
The IBAL report for Cork City, which was ranked 21 out of 40, praised cleanliness in the St Patrick’s Street and Opera Lane shopping areas but the report for Mahon, ranked 35 out of 40, said the area continues to struggle in the rankings.
While Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Mahon Industrial and Loughmahon Technology Park were all well presented and maintained, IBAL said The Maples, Loughmahon Road, and Ave de Rennes were all described as “seriously littered sites with a general air of unkemptness”.
The report for Cork North City, ranked 36th of 40, deemed the area littered with little improvement over the previous survey.
“While Ballyvolane Road was the only litter blackspot, the overall area suffers from several heavily littered sites, noticeably Redforge Road, Sun Valley Drive, and Spring Lane, and a dearth of litter-free ones,” the report said.
The IBAL survey also showed falls in the prevalence of fast food wrappers, plastic bottles, and dog fouling.
But chewing gum, cigarette butts, and drink cans continue to be major sources of litter in problem areas of the main cities and on the roads outside the towns.