Cigarettes account for half of all litter in Ireland, report finds

Pedestrians and motorists are the worst offenders, according to monitoring body

Cigarettes make up nearly 55 per cent of all litter in Ireland, according to a report from the State’s litter monitoring body.

Cigarette related litter is well ahead of the next biggest offender, packaging items , which accounts for 18.2 per cent of litter composition nationwide.

The report says passing pedestrians are responsible for 42 per cent of the litter dropped across the country while passing motorists fling 22.4 per cent of it from their vehicles.

But the report also recorded an increase in the number of unpolluted areas – 20.5 per cent of the locations surveyed in 2018 were free of pollution, an increase of 4.9 per cent on the previous year.


It also recorded a decrease of 4.3 per cent in the number slightly polluted areas (59.6 per cent). Modereately polluted areas remained the same at 17.1 per cent while grossly polluted areas increased from 0.3 per cent to 0.4 per cent.

Minister for the Environment Richard Bruton said people appeared to have a blind spot for cigarette litter.

“Littering could be halved if cigarette butts were properly disposed of. We seem to have a blind spot for this behaviour – it is six times more prevalent than sweet papers,” he said, publishing the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System report.

“Overall the survey shows some promising results. We see an increase in unpolluted areas and a decrease in slightly and significantly polluted areas. These results are thanks to the vigorous efforts made by individuals, community groups and local authorities in keeping their local area clean.

“However we do also see a very slight increase in the amount of grossly polluted areas, with cigarette related litter remaining the largest offender. The amount of chewing gum litter has halved since 2016.”

The report lists the main litter constituents as: Cigarette related litter (54.4 per cemt); packaging items (18.2 per cent); sweet related litter (9.2 per cent); food related litter (8.9 per cent), paper items (5.8 per cent) and deleterious litter (2.1 per cent).

The main causes of litter are: Pedestrians (42.0 per cent); passing motorists (22.4 per cent), retail outlets (9.4 per cent), gathering points (6.0 per cent), places of leisure/entertainment (4.7 per cent), fast food outlets (3.9 per cent), schools/ school children (3.5 per cent), bus stops (2.6 per cent), and fly-tipping/dumping (2.2 per cent).

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin

Dan Griffin is an Irish Times journalist