Survey records ‘spectacular’ improvement in cleanliness of Dublin city

Mahon in Cork deemed to be the dirtiest place in Ireland

Litter levels have fallen across the State with a “spectacular” improvement noted in the cleanliness of Dublin city, according to a survey for Irish Business Against Litter (Ibal).

Dublin’s north inner city, despite seeing some improvements, continues to languish near the bottom of the litter league, rankings at 39th out of 40 areas surveyed by An Taisce for the anti-litter group late last year. Mahon in Cork was deemed to be the dirtiest place in Ireland.

Three-quarters of the 40 cities, towns and suburbs surveyed were regarded as clean, compared to just over half this time last year.

“While Naas was again top of the rankings, city areas showed greatest improvement, notably Dublin city,” Ibal said.


Dublin city centre moved from 38th spot this time last year to 31st, and is now ranked as being “moderately littered” by An Taisce.

Ibal said “2022 saw a spectacular reduction in litter blackspots in the capital, which explains its rise in the rankings”.

“Top sites included the Garden of Remembrance, main shopping streets of O’Connell Street and Grafton Street (both were exceptionally well presented and maintained) and St Stephen’s Green Park – a wonderful city centre park environment which was not just spotless but a lovely green space,” it said.

However, it was not all good news for the city centre. “There was no improvement at Parnell Square West or the car park at Werburgh Street – both were litter blackspots and the latter was even worse than in previous surveys.”

The north inner city, always near the bottom of the rankings, remained dirty, but was improving, An Taisce said. “While the area is still littered the recent improvement in north inner city Dublin has happily been maintained, with fewer heavily littered sites in evidence.”

The environment group attributed this improvement in part to increased construction activity in the area. “The area has seen remarkable changes and developments over the last number of years and this has been reflected in the overall presentation of many areas which were previously abandoned sites.” However, it said “dog fouling was noted at a large number of sites surveyed”.

An Taisce said Mahon was “one of the few areas surveyed to deteriorate year-on-year”.

“There is a definite issue with dumping here – many sites were let down not just because of casual litter but due to presence of dumped items. Dirty nappies were noted at a few separate locations.”

Plastic bottles and cans continued to be a major source of litter, second only to sweet wrappers, and present in one in three of the 500-plus sites surveyed across the 40 areas.

Ibal said these findings bolster the case for a deposit return scheme due to be introduced this year, which will see consumers paying a deposit which they can reclaim on returning their containers to a retailer or other collection point. “Based on this data the scheme is sorely needed and stands to rid our streets of a significant amount of litter. The same applies to the proposed coffee cup levy,” said Ibal spokesman Conor Horgan.

The survey shows cigarette butts remain a persistent form of litter. “We welcome the announcement that cigarette manufacturers will now be contributing to the cost of clean-up, but we really need to see preventative measures such as widespread butt disposal facilities alongside innovative packaging which can store butts,” Mr Horgan said.

The overall results “reflect a pattern of improvement since the peak of the Covid pandemic, when litter levels soared, especially in cities”, he said. “In particular we are seeing local authorities concentrate their efforts on ridding areas of heavily littered sites. We have no reason to believe this improvement will not be sustained. Cleanliness is a virtuous circle: clean streets beget clean streets, inspiring a pride and consciousness of the environment among people.”

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times