Litter in Irish cities worsens to levels ‘not seen in 10 years’

Survey finds Dublin’s north inner city is a ‘blackspot’ while Portlaoise is the cleanest

While the majority of Ireland’s towns have been cleaned up over the past 12 months, litter in the main cities has worsened. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

While the majority of Ireland’s towns have been cleaned up over the past 12 months, litter in the main cities has worsened. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Litter in Ireland’s cities has worsened to levels “not seen in 10 years”, a new survey has found.

The first post-lockdown survey by Irish Business Against Litter has shown that while the majority of Ireland’s towns have been cleaned up over the past 12 months, litter in the main cities has worsened.

Dublin’s north inner city was branded a “litter blackspot” while Portlaoise emerged as the cleanest of 40 areas surveyed nationwide.

An Taisce, which carried out the survey on behalf of Irish Business Against Litter (IBAl), said only two out of 25 sites surveyed in Dublin’s north inner city were clean.

The lack of clean sites was “striking and helped make this among the worst results of any area since the establishment of the IBAL [litter] League 19 years ago”, its report said.

“What’s more, nearly 70 per cent of sites were heavily littered or worse, among them several that had been highlighted in previous surveys,” An Taisce said.

After Dublin’s north inner city, the worst places for litter were Limerick city south, Drogheda, Ballybeg in Waterford and Dublin city centre.

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The five cleanest places were Portlaoise, followed by Leixlip, Ennis, Arklow and Dún Laoghaire.

Ten years ago, Portlaoise was at the foot of the table but has now topped the rankings, an achievement praised by An Taisce as the result of “years of concerted effort and steady improvement”.

Around the country, the number of areas deemed clean by An Taisce rose from 17 to 23 in the latest survey. In all, 68 per cent of towns showed an improvement on last year.

Carlow and Longford

Notable improvement was seen in Tipperary town and in Carlow and Longford, which were both “cleaner than European norms”.

“With local authority cleaning schedules normalising again and volunteer groups re-engaged in clean-ups across the country, our towns are almost as clean as two years ago,” Conor Horgan of IBAL said.

However, this was “still some way short of where they were in 2014”, he said.

The majority of urban areas fared worse than in 2020, among them Dublin, Cork and Limerick city centres, which were all deemed “littered”. Only Galway and Dublin’s Tallaght and Ballymun registered significant year-on-year improvement.

“For cities, this survey paints a bleak picture,” Mr Horgan said.

“Now that we have emerged from lockdown, we cannot use it as an excuse for high levels of litter.”

Mr Horgan said city councils may be struggling to deal with “changes in behaviour around outdoor drinking and outdoor socialising more generally. They have increased the number of bins but nonetheless people are consuming more outside and it inevitably leads to litter”.

This was a bigger problem in cities than in towns, he added.

“As we invest in promotional drives and build city hotels in anticipation of more visitors, we need to be mindful of the littered environment we are presenting to them.”