New IBAL survey of rivers, beaches and harbours reveals River Avoca is ‘littered’

A nationwide survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) has revealed that almost 40% of Ireland’s rivers, beaches and harbours are “littered”, among them the River Avoca in Arklow. Meanwhile Brittas Bay and the River Dargle in Bray were both deemed ‘moderately littered’.  

The study of beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs, carried out by An Taisce, showed only 4 of 50 areas surveyed were deemed “Clean to European Norms”. Almost 40% were littered or heavily littered, with some areas in Cork Harbour and Doolin Pier in Clare classified as litter blackspots.

The An Taisce report for Brittas Bay stated: “The car park and entrances to both North & South Beaches were moderately littered – mainly food and sweet wrappers / wipes. The middle stretch of beach was very good with regard to litter.  There was very little marine based litter – some pieces of wood in the water.”

The report for the River Dargle at Bray stated: “Extensive area with some areas in very good order and others less so. The new river walk area was clear from litter and well maintained.  This was in contrast to the industrial area where alcohol cans and domestic rubbish had been discarded. Main Street had small amounts of  scattered receipts, food wrappers on road verge. Seapoint Road had mainly cigarette butts, food wrappers on road verge. Harbour area – land was clear from rubbish. The harbour area – water had micro plastic washed up in harbour.”

The report for the River Avoca at Arklow stated: “The beach and dunes were in good order with regard to litter. The Pier & parking area were somewhat litter, mostly food wrappers. There were heavy levels of marine related items at South Quay e.g. rope/lobster pots on quay and tyres. The Harbour slipway had lots of accumulation of long lie litter – rope, food wrappers, plastic bottles, cans etc.”

The overall results contrast with those of IBAL’s recent surveys of towns across the country which show 75% of areas to be clean, compared to just 8% in this survey. “Sadly, accumulations of litter in and around our waterways are a common sight in Ireland and this is borne out by these disappointing results,” comments Conor Horgan of IBAL. “If we can call our towns clean, we cannot say the same for the areas around our beaches and rivers. It took almost ten years of naming and shaming for local authorities to get to grips with litter in our towns. IBAL has set about pushing for a similar turnabout in respect of coastal areas and waterways.”

IBAL has been publishing litter surveys since 2002 as part of its Anti-Litter League programme, which has helped bring about a spectacular shift in litter levels. 16 years ago, less than 10% of the towns surveyed were deemed ‘Clean’. The most recent report shows three-quarters of towns attaining Clean status.

“The objective of this new campaign is to rid our coasts and waterways of litter, as they are central to the country’s appeal to visitors and an integral part of the clean image we project. Aside from this commercial motivation, our research brings into focus the broader issue of marine litter and the need to stem the vast amounts of plastic and other litter which is entering and killing our oceans.”

The most common forms of litter found by the assessors were cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, plastic bottles and cans.

“We are a small island and often subject to wet and windy weather. When someone casually drops a plastic bottle or cigarette butt on the street, the likelihood of it being blown into a local river or swept into a drain to then enter the sea is very high,” continues Horgan. “This litter isn’t just unsightly, it is contributing to lasting, potentially irreparable damage to our planet. This is the new face of litter.”

Worldwide, billions of kilos of disgarded plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans, making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. For every foot of coastline in the world, the equivalent of 5 grocery bags filled with plastic ends up in our oceans each year. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.


Litter survey – rivers, beaches and harbours*

*areas surveyed comprise waterfront and immediate environs


Clean to European norms
Kinsale Harbour Cork
Salthill Galway
River Shannon (Carrick-on-Shannon) Leitrim
River Shannon (Lanesboro) Longford
Moderately littered
Ballybunion Kerry
Ballycotton Cork
River Blackwater (Fermoy) Cork
River Blackwater (Youghal) Cork
River Boyne (Navan) Meath
Brittas Bay Wicklow
Cork Harbour (Crosshaven) Cork
River Corrib (Galway City) Galway
Curracloe Wexford
River Dargle (Bray) Wicklow
Dun Laoghaire Dublin
River Garravogue (Sligo town) Sligo
Kilkee Clare
Killybegs Donegal
Kilmore Quay Wexford
Kinvara Galway
River Laune (Killorglin) Kerry
Loughrea Galway
River Moy (Ballina) Mayo
River Nore (Kilkenny) Kilkenny
Portmarnock Dublin
Rosslare Harbour Wexford
Seapoint Dublin
River Shannon (Athlone) Westmeath
River Shannon (Foynes) Limerick
Skerries Dublin
River Suir (Clonmel) Tipperary
Tramore Waterford
River Avoca (Arklow) Wicklow
Balbriggan Dublin
River Barrow (Carlow town) Carlow
Bundoran Sligo
Dingle Kerry
Grand Canal Dock, Dublin Dublin
Lahinch Clare
River Shannon (Limerick UL) Limerick
River Slaney (Wexford) Wexford
Heavily littered
Bantry Cork
River Boyne (Drogheda) Louth
Clogher Head Louth
River Shannon (Portumna) Galway
River Suir (Waterford City) Waterford
River Tolka (Annesley Bridge) Dublin
Litter blackspots
Cork Harbour (Ballinacurra, Midleton) Cork
Cork Harbour (Blackrock Castle) Cork
Doolin Pier Clare

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