The latest litter survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) has again found the Avoca river at Arklow to be ‘littered’, and towards the bottom of the listing of 42 areas surveyed across the country, as it was this time last year. Brittas Bay and the Dargle at Bray remained ‘moderately littered’. While the majority of our towns are clean, our beaches and waterways are not, according to the study.
Beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs were monitored by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce over the course of the summer. The An Taisce report for the Avoca river at Arklow stated: The surrounding roads were generally good with regard to litter and the beach area was moderately littered. But it was the quay / harbour area which really brought down the overall litter grade. White heavy duty tarpaulin bags were being used as bins on the South Quay/harbour area – as they were not covered the contents are exposed to wind and seagulls picking at rubbish (as observed) resulting in items of rubbish on ground surrounding bins . Marine related litter was very much in evidence with discarded fishing nets / rope and some tarpaulin beside a blue metal container. Other discarded items included tyres and plastic matting.
The An Taisce report for Brittas Bay stated: An expansive site, large parts of which were in good order with regard to litter. North Beach Car Park had scattered items of litter with just small amounts on North Beach. Most of the litter noted was at South Beach. Land based litter items included, small amounts of a variety of food related litter items, cigarette butts, fishing line, some clothing and beach toys. Other items included horse manure, polystyrene and wet wipes. Some larger items had been dumped near the skip in the bushes (long lie item possibly a parasol) and wire at the Blue Flag pole on the North beach. The glass / can recycle facility was a fresh and clean environment.
The An Taisce report for the River Dargle stated: This was very much a mixed site in terms of litter. The harbour and immediate environs was generally not too bad with regard to litter and it was noted that the bin is now positioned in better location than previously. It was very disappointing to see the beautifully landscaped riverwalk area so casually treated – heavy levels of a wide range of food and alcohol related items had been discarded with reckless abandon – on the ground, seating area and within the planted areas. With a gust of wind much of this could end up in the water. Cigarette butts were also very much a feature throughout.
Once again Salthill emerged as one of the cleanest beaches, alongside Curracloe in Wexford and Seapoint in Dublin. While Lough Rea and the River Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon and the Nore in Kilkenny were clean, the Barrow in Carlow town and the Tolka in Dublin were both heavily littered. KiImore Quay harbour was clean, but Cork Harbour near Midleton was once again heavily littered and among the worst areas surveyed.
Previously a litter blackspot, the pier at Doolin in Clare was “moderately littered”, as were the popular tourist destinations of Bundoran, Dingle, Kinsale and Lahinch.
“Our regular surveys consistently show 80% of our towns to be clean. We cannot say the same for our beaches and waterways,” comments Conor Horgan of IBAL. “For us as a business group this is about protecting tourism and our recreational assets, but it is equally about global impact and our future – the litter we encounter in these areas will typically enter our seas and add to the problem of marine litter, which is threatening our very survival.”
The need for action around plastic pollution in the marine and aquatic environment is now well established. 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. Recent studies have also highlighted the potential impact of marine litter on our climate, as plastic consumed by plankton may impair a key role of the ocean in trapping CO2 from our atmosphere.
“Litter as we know it has acquired a wholly new importance for society,” says Mr Horgan. “This is especially true for an island like Ireland, where litter can readily wind its way to the sea irrespective of where it is dropped. When it comes to marine litter the sea starts at every household, street, green space and workplace.”
The most common forms of litter found by the assessors were food wrappers, plastic bottles, cans and cigarette butts. New research has shown even a single butt can contaminate up to 200 litres of ground water. Fishing industry-related litter (e.g. nets, ropes, strapping bands, floats, etc.) occurred throughout almost all marine sites.
Irish Business Against Litter has been conducting surveys of towns and cities since 2002 and has witnessed a spectacular rise in cleanliness over that period. This is the second year that the study has extended to coastal areas and waterways. “We have seen significant improvement year on year but will keep putting pressure on local authorities and others to give priority to these areas and support the work of the thousands of volunteers cleaning litter from our coastlines. There is no reason why they should not be as clean as our towns.”