Coffee cup litter reaching peak-Covid levels, says Ibal

Maynooth is Ireland’s cleanest place while Dublin’s north inner city was recorded as the dirtiest

Coffee cup litter, is now “close to peak-Covid levels” according to Irish Business Against Litter (Ibal) with discarded cups found at almost one-third of 500 locations inspected for the group by An Taisce.

The final report for 2023 by the anti-litter business group shows an improvement in many of the 40 town and cities which had previously been heavily littered. However, Dublin’s north inner city remains at the bottom of the table with vacant sites in particular attracting high levels of illegal dumping.

For the first time since surveys began 20 years ago, last year no area was deemed “seriously littered”, and Ibal said, the new Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and cans should result in ongoing improvements in litter levels.

“This latest survey shows these items to be present in just under half of the hundreds of sites we surveyed,” Ibal spokesman Conor Horgan said. From next month consumers will pay a deposit of 15 cent on cans and up to 25 cent on plastic bottles, refundable on their return.


“This scheme will remove a large portion of this litter and bring about a significantly cleaner environment in 2024. While there may be some inconvenience for consumers, the prize is a very real, and a very immediate one.”

However, Mr Horgan said Ibal was concerned by an increase in coffee cup litter which had emerged as a significant problem during Covid-19 restrictions three years ago, but has since receded.

“We are concerned at potential delays in introducing a coffee cup levy,” he said. “We believe this action is needed to stamp out a product which is out of step with the circular economy. Irrespective of how recyclable or compostable take-away cups are, these statistics show too many of them are ending up on our streets.” Killarney had benefited from having banned single-use cups last year, a move met with little or no resistance from the community, he said.

There was another significant rise in the prevalence of disposable vapes, which had been highlighted previously as an emerging source of litter, he said. These were found in more than 10 per cent of all sites covered.

Maynooth in Co Kildare, was ranked the cleanest town in Ireland with An Taisce noting it had achieved “a level of cleanliness over the course of 2023 which we have not encountered in two decades of surveying”. The University campus was described as “spotless”, with the Main Street achieving “an excellent result for a busy shopping environment”.

Dublin’s north inner city on the other hand is the dirtiest place in the State. “Vast amounts of litter and domestic rubbish” were noted by An Taisce along Sherrard Street, while a number of derelict and vacant sites were subject to persistent dumping with large numbers of black sacks present.

Dublin’s city centre had also deteriorated, as had Limerick’s. An Taisce reported “monumental levels of dumping” at Mallow Street in Limerick, while a vacant site on William Street was “an eye-sore, right in the heart of the city”.

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Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times