Covid-related waste adds to deteriorating levels of urban litter

Dublin’s north inner city dirtiest place in the State – An Taisce report

Urban litter levels have deteriorated, according to Irish Business Against Litter (Ibal), with Covid-19-related waste, particularly masks, at "record levels". Dublin's north inner city was once again the dirtiest place in the State and branded a "litter blackspot" in the national survey undertaken by An Taisce for Ibal. Drogheda, Dublin city centre and Cork's northside were all "heavily littered", the survey of 40 towns, cities and urban areas found.

Dublin's docklands dragged down the north inner city with "fencing, old bicycles and discarded domestic items" among the litter found in the water at Spencer Dock and "huge swathes of all manner of litter was strewn along the pavement, along with bags of rubbish" at Crinan Strand off Sheriff Street, according to the survey.

Close by, at Aldborough Place, a small lane off Portland Row opposite the historic Alderborough House and close to the Five Lamps, “bags of rubbish dominated”.

Hospital Report

Cork and Limerick city centres were both littered and showed a deterioration on the previous survey. Galway city lost its clean status, leaving Waterford as the country's only clean city. The Galvone area in Limerick city improved significantly, rising six places in the rankings, but the urban areas of Ballymun, Tallaght and Cork's northside all fell back.


"Frankly, there are few positives to draw from this survey when it comes to our main cities," Ibal spokesman Conor Horgan said. "Other than Limerick's Galvone and Ballybeg in Waterford, the An Taisce reports make for grim reading. Covid is certainly a factor but it alone cannot explain a negative underlying trend of recent years in the cleanliness of our urban areas."

The report showed PPE (personal protective equipment) waste at record levels, with an increase in the presence of both masks and gloves. “It would appear that this litter is accumulating as the pandemic continues, as there remains an understandable reticence to pick up other people’s PPE,” Mr Horgan said. “The disposable blue face mask has become a ubiquitous part of the landscape up and down the country.”

There was a significant rise in other pandemic-related litter, such as coffee cups, while alcohol-related litter remained at previous levels despite hospitality reopening and the survey being conducted in winter.

“Ibal has frequently criticised the failure of local authorities to clean up sites identified in its surveys as heavily littered, and this was again the case. Of 89 such sites highlighted in summer last year, only 33 per cent had been addressed by the time of this most recent survey,” Mr Horgan said.

“In our last study we flagged litter in our cities as having reached levels not seen in 10 years. Unfortunately, recent months have only brought further deterioration. Our towns are much cleaner than they were say 15 years ago, but it seems our cities have reverted to the bad old days of the noughties, with litter the norm rather than the exception.”

Naas was Ireland's cleanest town in 2021, finishing ahead of Portlaoise and Ennis to record its first win in the annual rankings. An Taisce found every site examined in the Kildare town to be "virtually free of litter". The "spotless" waterside environment at Harbour View, Fairgreen recycle facility, and the shopping arcade off North Main Street came in for particular praise.

Cleaner than European norms

1 Naas
2 Portlaoise
3 Ennis
4 Leixlip
5 Arklow
6 Dún Laoghaire
7 Fermoy
8 Longford
9 Kilkenny

Clean to European norms

10 Buncrana
11 Waterford city centre
12 Monaghan
13 Killarney
14 Tralee
15 Wexford
16 Clonmel
17 Cavan
18 Athlone
19 Ballina
20 Tullamore
21 Sligo
22 Mullingar

Moderately littered

23 Carlow
24 Galway city centre
25 Tipperary
26 Navan
27 Tallaght
28 Dundalk


29 Roscommon
30 Waterford city – Ballybeg
31 Mahon – Cork city
32 Cork city centre
33 Limerick city south – Galvone
34 Galway inner city – Ballybane
35 Limerick city
36 Ballymun

Heavily littered

37 Cork northside
38 Dublin city centre
39 Drogheda

Litter blackspot

40 Dublin north inner city

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times