The first nationwide litter survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL ) since the Covid-19 crisis, shows Castlebar to be ‘Clean to European Norms’ and in 11th spot in the ranking of 40 towns and cities nationwide.
However, there was a dramatic fall in the number of towns and cities deemed to be ‘clean’, to its lowest level since 2007. Kilkenny was again judged best of those surveyed, with ‘seriously littered’ Dublin North Inner City at the foot of the table. The survey showed PPE litter to be widespread and a rise in the prevalence of cans and glass bottles.
The Taisce report for Castlebar stated: "It is pleasing to see Castlebar score its highest ranking in eight years, given its struggles in the League some years ago.
"Over half of the sites surveyed received the top litter grade and there were no seriously littered sites. Top ranking sites included GMIT Mayo Campus (excellent in terms of presentation and maintenance ), the shopping area with Aldi / Next / TK Maxx (an exceptionally freshly presented environment with a complete lack of litter throughout ); the residential areas of The Orchard and Spencer Manor were also excellent in terms of litter and presentation."
An Taisce deemed 23 towns to be ‘clean’, a fall of over 20 per cent on last year. The number of towns reaching the highest cleanliness level – Cleaner than European Norms - dropped by a quarter, to nine, with Kilkenny edging out Athlone, Killarney and Portlaoise at the top of the rankings. While no area was branded a “litter blackspot”, North Inner City Dublin was once again seriously littered, as was Galvone in Limerick City, which fell back from last year.
IBAL’s Conor Horgan said: "The rise in litter levels this year is across the board. The Covid crisis has seen more dumping, more outdoor socialising, especially drinking, and PPE litter, but less cleaning by local authorities and less activity by volunteers like Tidy Towns - a perfect storm, in many ways, which has brought us to the worst position we’ve been in in over 10 years.
"In the fight against Covid-19, local authorities have curtailed cleaning schedules and diverted resources to other areas. At the same time, households have been generating more litter during lockdown and there has been a visible increase in drinking outdoors as pubs are closed, a fact borne out by the rise in bottles and cans found by the An Taisce inspectors, Galway City being one example.
"However, there was a reduction in cigarette butts, perhaps also a reflection of pubs and offices being closed. Half of all recycle facilities surveyed were heavily littered, another likely consequence of the Covid crisis.
"PPE litter was prevalent across the country, with masks five times as common as gloves. Understandably, people are reluctant to pick up these items for fear of contracting Covid, so they tend to stay on the ground. We need to see a rapid rise in the use of reusable masks," said Horgan, concluding: "In these exceptional times, when councils’ resources are stretched, civic responsibility is called for more than ever. The mantra ‘we’re all in this together’ extends to the proper disposal of waste, not least waste that is prone to contamination. With fewer people available or willing to pick up litter, the message has to be ‘don’t litter in the first place'."