The final litter survey of 2020 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL ) shows Castlebar retaining its “clean” status in 12th place in the ranking of 37 towns and cities.
Kilkenny again took the top spot, ahead of Killarney and Ennis. According to the report, litter levels continue to rise nationwide, with fewer than half of the towns surveyed deemed clean.
The An Taisce report for Castlebar stated: "A good result but a slight slip in cleanliness in Castlebar, with a number of heavily littered sites to blame.
"The two offending sites were N5 Business Park (communal areas need attention due to the heavy accumulations in the low-lying shrubbery ) and the Main Street – the latter was let down not just by litter on the street but also the significant litter behind the railings of the former premises for hair / beauty supplies.
"Residential areas of The Cedars and Breaffy Court were both not just very good with regard to litter but were very freshly presented and maintained. Some sites within Castlebar just missed getting the top litter grade eg St Brid’s Primary School and the N5 Dublin Approach and N84 Galway / Ballinrobe Approach."
In all, litter levels rose in 24 of the 37 towns and cities inspected by An Taisce at the end of 2020, resulting in only 17 being judged to be clean – a fall of over 25 per cent on last summer and in sharp contrast to just three years ago, when 80 per cent were deemed clean.
According to IBAL, the survey results are consistent with a trend in recent years. "The decline in cleanliness is less a case of the poorer areas getting worse, but of previously clean towns slipping to littered," said IBAL spokesperson, Conor Horgan.
He added: "Covid is clearly a factor here, but we should never accept litter as inevitable. It comes down to people disposing of their waste without regard for their surroundings or their fellow citizens and it is entirely unnecessary."
One explanation for the rise in litter lies in the restrictions surrounding cleaning services during the pandemic. "While council workers have not been on the streets as much as normal, the general public has been spending more time than ever out of doors," said Horgan, adding that there was a sharp rise in the amounts of litter on approach roads to towns, reflecting the fact that the benign winter has seen masses of people out walking. "Ironically, too many of them are showing a shameful disregard for the environment they are enjoying," he said.
IBAl noted that coffee cups were among the most prevalent litter types found, while there was another rise in glass bottles and cans, suggesting that outdoor drinking has not waned over the winter months. The survey also showed that the second half of 2020 brought a further increase in PPE-related litter, primarily masks. "Eight months into the pandemic, we would have hoped people would have moved to reusable masks with a resulting fall in mask-related litter. In fact, we are seeing more and more of them ending up our streets," said Horgan.