Athlone climbed to 13th position out of 40 towns in the latest survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL ), up from 17th place last year. Athlone was narrowly beaten by Portlaoise and Tullamore, which came in 11th and 12th place respectively. Ennis in County Clare was deemed Ireland's cleanest town.
“Progress in Athlone in recent years has been maintained," read the report. "Eight sites in the town got the top litter grade. It was noted that within Arcadia Retail Park there was an area in a very poor state in previous IBAL litter surveys, but the dumping had been addressed and this time around the area was Grade A status."
Other top ranking sites identified in the report included The Docks, John Broderick Street, and the Fairgreen Car Park, which was described as "spotless."
However, the report drew attention to a patch of waste ground on Grace Park Road which was in a very poor state, and asked, "Where does responsibility for this site lie?"
Announcing the winners at an event in Dublin on Wednesday, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten TD said "We’ve certainly come a long way since 2002 when not a single town in the 26 counties was deemed clean. The success achieved across the length and breadth of the country in the 2017 Litter League shows that, collectively, we are continuing to improve."
The survey was carried out by An Taisce on behalf of IBAL. Of the 25 towns and 15 city areas surveyed, none was judged to be a litter blackspot, and only one, Galvone in Limerick, was designated as “seriously littered.”
Some 88 per cent of towns were deemed clean, a slight improvement on the previous year, with 40 per cent judged to be cleaner than the European average. In contrast, city areas occupied six of the bottom seven places in the rankings.
According to the survey, 2017 saw falls in the prevalence of fast food wrappers, plastic bottles and dog fouling. Chewing gum, cigarette butts and cans continue to be major sources of litter.