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Arklow shines in post-lockdown litter rankings as towns improve

The first post-lockdown survey by Irish Business Against Litter shows Arklow in 4th position in the ranking of 40 areas nationwide. While the majority of our towns have cleaned up over the past 12 months, litter in our main cities has worsened to levels not seen in ten years. Portlaoise emerged as cleanest town. The study found no fall-off in PPE litter across the country.

The An Taisce report for Arklow stated: 

An excellent result for Arklow. The three approach roads got the top litter grade, and this high standard was maintained for many of the other sites surveyed. There is clearly a strong Tidy Towns presence throughout the town, based on various signage and projects. One notable feature throughout Arklow was the way in which many of the closed / boarded up properties had been brightly painted, even camouflaged to remove the sense of abandonment.  Arklow Sports Centre – Coral Leisure and Environs wasn’t just very good with regard to litter but there was a strong emphasis on the environment with solar panels on the roof and ‘water conservation garden’ to the rear. 

The number of areas deemed clean by An Taisce, who carry out the survey on behalf of IBAL, rose from 17 to 23. In all, 68% of towns showed an improvement on last year. Portlaoise, which was at the very foot of the table back in 2010, topped the rankings, ahead of Leixlip and past winner Ennis.

IBAL’s Conor Horgan commented: “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 2 years ago. This is still some way short of where they were in 2014, however.”    

By contrast, the majority of urban areas fared worse than in 2020, among them Dublin, Cork and Limerick City Centres, which were all deemed ‘littered’.

A bleak picture for cities

All but one of the bottom 10 places in the rankings were occupied by urban areas. “For cities, this survey paints a bleak picture,” comments Conor Horgan.  “Litter levels have worsened to a level we have not seen in the past ten years. Now that we have emerged from lockdown, we cannot use it as an excuse for high levels of litter.  

“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.”

For the first time since 2014, Dublin’s North Inner City was deemed a litter blackspot. Of the 25 sites in the area surveyed, only 2 were found to be clean, and 17 were ‘heavily littered’ or worse.

Continued Rise in Covid-related litter

The study showed a near-30% increase in the prevalence of PPE masks on our streets and an increase in alcohol-related litter such as cans and bottles. 

“The need for PPE has not abated – unfortunately we’re still using disposable masks, we’re still dropping them at an alarming rate and they are still not being picked up,“ says Conor Horgan. “We are consuming more outdoors and this is translating into more food- and drink-related litter.” Despite this, the survey showed a 20% drop in coffee cup litter. There was also a steep fall-off in cigarette butts.

IBAL was once again critical of the failure of local authorities to address sites which they have previously highlighted as heavily littered, especially in urban areas. Of the 103 such sites exposed last year, fewer than half have been cleaned up in 2021. 

2021 is the 19th year of the IBAL Anti-Litter League.