No ‘seriously littered’ towns as Maynooth tops 2023 rankings

  • Dublin and Limerick city centres disappoint
  • Deposit Return Scheme a likely ‘gamechanger’ says IBAL
  • Coffee cup litter close to peak-Covid levels

Monday, 8 January 2024 – The final litter survey of 2023 by business group Irish Business Against Litter shows our worst-performing towns continuing to improve. For the first time since surveys began 20 years ago, last year no area was deemed ‘seriously littered’. Maynooth was top of the rankings of 40 towns and cities nationwide, with Dublin’s North Inner City at the foot of the table. IBAL says the impending Deposit Return Scheme will improve cleanliness levels further but is calling for action on coffee cups.     

While litter levels rose slightly overall, over 60% of towns surveyed were deemed clean in 2023, with Maynooth edging out Mallow and much improved Sligo to take the title of cleanest town. An Taisce, who carry out the surveys on behalf of IBAL, commended Maynooth on attaining “a level of cleanliness over the course of 2023 which we have not encountered in two decades of surveying”. The University campus was described as ‘spotless’, with the Main Street achieving “an excellent result for a busy shopping environment.”

Waterford was again our cleanest city, ahead of Galway. These were the only cities to be judged ‘clean’, with Cork City Centre improving to ‘moderately littered’ but Dublin falling to ‘littered’, alongside Limerick. Dublin North Inner City occupied last place in the table but its ‘littered’ status was an improvement on past years.      

“This is a disappointing result for Dublin and Limerick city centres, given that they both enjoyed ‘clean’ status a few years ago,” says IBAL’s Conor Horgan. “There are many challenges facing our Capital city, but clean streets are an important starting point on the path to recovery.”

In Limerick, there were “monumental levels of dumping” at Mallow Street, while the vacant site on William Street was “an eye-sore, right in the heart of the city”.  “Vast amounts of litter and domestic rubbish” were noted along Dublin’s Sherrard St, while Cathedral St on Cork’s Northside “wasn’t just casually littered but subject to dumping”.

“There is some good news in our cities, however,” says Conor Horgan. “For years our worst performing areas were deemed either ‘litter blackspots’ or ‘seriously littered’. This baseline would seem to be changing, with ‘littered’ becoming the bottom tier. Cleanliness begets cleanliness, and there is reason to hope the improvement will continue in future years.”

‘We need action on coffee cups”

A surprise finding of the IBAL study was the rise in coffee cup litter, which is now close to peak-Covid levels. Coffee cups were found at over 30% of the 500+ sites surveyed. “We are concerned at potential delays in introducing a coffee cup levy,” says Conor Horgan. “We believe this action is needed to stamp out a product which is out of step with the circular economy. Irrespective of how recyclable or compostable take-away cups are, these statistics show too many of them are ending up on our streets.” IBAL says Killarney has benefited from having banned single-use cups last year, a move met with little or no resistance from the community.       

IBAL welcomes the introduction next month of the Deposit Return Scheme as a potential game-changer in the fight against litter, much as the plastic bag levy was. The scheme will see consumers pay a deposit of 15 cent on cans and up to 25 cent on plastic bottles, refundable on their return. “This latest survey shows these items to be present in just under half of the hundreds of sites we surveyed. This scheme will remove a large portion of this litter and bring about a significantly cleaner environment in 2024. While there may be some inconvenience for consumers, the prize is a very real, and a very immediate one.”

There was another significant rise in the prevalence of disposable vapes, highlighted previously as an emerging source of litter. These were found in more than 10% of all sites covered. 

The Cathaoirleach of Clane/Maynooth Municipal District, Tim Durkin, will be presented at noon today in Court House Square, Main St, Maynooth with the Dr Tom Cavanagh Memorial Trophy. 2023 marked the 21st anniversary of the IBAL Anti-Litter League.

ENDS

For An Taisce reports of individual areas see www.ibal.ie/anti-litter-league

Contact Conor Horgan on 086 8217211, [email protected]

Editors note:

Set up in 1996, Irish Business Against Litter is an alliance of companies sharing a belief that continued economic prosperity – notably in the areas of tourism, food and direct foreign investment – is contingent on a clean, litter-free environment.

As part of the IBAL Anti-Litter League, An Taisce monitors towns independently and in accordance with international grading standards.