A snapshot survey on the battle against litter has been described as “grim reading” for the biggest cities in Ireland.
The survey of 40 towns and cities, conducted by An Taisce on behalf of Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL), found litter problems are deteriorating in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Dublin. Cork has now been labelled a 'littered' city, with the northside described as 'heavily littered'.
Dublin City Centre has also been tagged as 'heavily littered', with the north inner city the only place described as a litter blackspot. The surveyors also found worsening litter problems in Limerick and Galway.
“Frankly, there are few positives to draw from this survey when it comes to our main cities,” IBAL’s Conor Horgan said.
“Covid is certainly a factor but it alone cannot explain a negative underlying trend of recent years in the cleanliness of our urban areas.”
PPE and other Covid-related litter was a feature of many areas, as were coffee cups and alcohol-related litter. Mr Horgan also said the disposable blue face mask has become a “ubiquitous part of the landscape up and down the country”.
Cork city centre ranked 32 out of the 40 surveyed.
“If some of the moderately littered sites could be improved, this would raise the city’s ranking significantly,” An Taisce’s report said.
Some sites noted in previous surveys had shown little to no improvement, such as the N20 Commons Road, Dyke Road and Kennedy Quay. Thomas Davis St was one of the most heavily littered sites in the country, An Taisce said.
St Patrick’s St received a B grade. The report said that the presentation of the street was in very good order, but it was “impossible to ignore the variety of food-related items, some black sacks and some sleeping bags”.
An Taisce said it was clear a careful eye is kept on the former Debenhams site as there was no litter directly associated with it.
With the exception of Mahon Retail Park and City Gate Park, Mahon fared poorly in the survey, coming in 31st place. An Taisce said there was a “dearth” of clean sites in the area, despite some improvements on previous surveys.
Limerick city came in 35th place, with five sites deemed litter blackspots. There was better news in the survey for the likes of Fermoy, Ennis, Tralee and Waterford City centre.
In the case of Fermoy and Ennis, they were deemed cleaner than European norms, while Tralee and Waterford city were deemed to be clean to European standards. In total, 22 of the 40 sites surveyed were either cleaner than, or equal to, European norms. Naas finished top of the survey.
However, improvement is needed, according to Mr Horgan. “In our last study we flagged litter in our cities as having reached levels not seen in 10 years. Unfortunately, recent months have only brought further deterioration.
“Our towns are much cleaner than they were 15 years ago, but it seems our cities have reverted to the bad old days of the noughties, with litter the norm rather than the exception.”