There was good news this week for Mayo’s two largest towns with Ballina and Castlebar maintaining their Clean to European Norms status. The Irish Business Against Litter league published its first results of 2009 which saw Ballina and Castlebar in 38th and 40th place respectively out of 60 towns surveyed.
However IBAL is concerned that many areas will suffer over the summer with the large scale reduction of weekend cleaning by local authorities due to budget cuts.
An Taisce, which conducted the survey on behalf of IBAL, commented that half the sites in Ballina got the top litter grade. “They were clean, fresh, and well presented, eg, Scoil Íosa, Link Road between Crossmolina Road and Killala Road, and the boys’ national school. All four of the sites which were moderately littered could easily be improved with a little extra effort, eg, Pearse Street, Tesco car park, and town council car park. Dunne’s Stores car park was by far the most heavily littered site — the overall appearance was dirty and unkempt.”
In relation to Castlebar, An Taisce found that SuperValu car park was by far the most heavily littered site surveyed, there were heavy levels of a wide variety of litter.
“There were some very well presented sites in Castlebar, not just clear of litter but well maintained, eg, Turlough approach road, household shopping centre, and Westport approach road. With a little extra effort some of the sites which were moderately littered could easily be improved — Pontoon approach road and GMIT.”
IBAL estimates that many local councils are making, on average, savings of €750 a week when cutting their weekend cleaning budgets and contend such a saving to be a false economy. “Litter is one area of spend where any cuts will be immediately visible, in littered pavements, parks, and beaches. Set against the significant time and money which local hotels and shops have invested in tourism over the past decade, these cuts are small, but they can be enough to undo the good work done in any town,” said Dr Tom Cavanagh, chairman, Irish Business Against Litter.
“In recent years Ireland has improved its performance on environmental and green issues in the eyes of our visitors. It is essential that this trend continues and the recent reduction in weekend cleaning and litter collection, particularly at visitor attractions, is a serious threat to the level of visitor satisfaction and must be addressed urgently by all local authorities,” said John Power, chief executive of Irish Hotels Federation and member of IBAL.