Fall in Athlone's ranking in anti-litter survey

Athlone has slipped to 16th in the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) rankings.

The town fell from second in the summer survey, the first part of the 2020 rankings.

In the 2019 final standings, Athlone was 12th of the then 40 town surveyed.

The An Taisce report for Athlone stated: “In common with many other towns, Athlone has slipped, with a couple of quite bad sites halting its progress of recent years. The residential areas of Fairlands and Retreat Avenue were both deserving of the top litter grade. The streetscape along Main Street was excellent, creating a very fresh impression – it was also excellent with regard to litter. By far the most heavily littered site in Athlone was the Batteries Park / Playground – a litter blackspot, it was characterised by large volumes of all manner of litter throughout the grasslands.”

In all, litter levels rose in 24 of the 37 towns and cities inspected by An Taisce at the end of 2020, resulting in only 17 being judged to be clean – a fall of over 25% on last summer and in sharp contrast to just 3 years ago, when 80% were clean.

According to IBAL, the survey results are consistent with a trend in recent years. “The decline in cleanliness is less a case of the poorer areas getting worse, but of previously clean towns slipping to littered,” says IBAL spokesperson Conor Horgan. “Covid is clearly a factor here, but we should never accept litter as inevitable. It comes down to people disposing of their waste without regard for their surroundings or their fellow citizens and it is entirely unnecessary.”

One explanation for the rise in litter lies in the restrictions surrounding cleaning services during the pandemic. “While council workers have not been on the streets as much as normal, the general public has been spending more time than ever out of doors,” says Mr Horgan. There was a sharp rise in the amounts of litter on approach roads to towns, reflecting the fact that the benign winter has seen masses of people out walking. “Ironically, too many of them are showing a shameful disregard for the environment they are enjoying.”

PPE litter

Coffee cups were among the most prevalent litter types found, while there was another rise in glass bottles and cans, suggesting that outdoor drinking has not waned over the winter months. The survey also showed that the second half of 2020 brought a further increase in PPE-related litter, primarily masks. “8 months into the pandemic, we would have hoped people would have moved to reusable masks with a resulting fall in mask-related litter. In fact, we are seeing more and more of them ending up our streets,” says Mr Horgan.

Heavily littered sites ‘getting worse’

The report highlighted a continued rise in the number of blackspots in towns and cities. IBAL was once again critical of the failure of local authorities to address sites that had been identified in previous surveys as heavily littered. 36 such sites were revisited in this latest survey, yet only 11% were found to have been cleaned up and more than a quarter had actually worsened.

Reluctance to pick up litter

According to IBAL, the reluctance among civic-minded people to pick up litter during the pandemic may carry long term consequences. “While people have certainly become more attuned to their natural surroundings and more conscious of how litter can spoil those surroundings, this is offset by an understandable unwillingness to pick up waste for fear of contamination. As the pandemic endures, and with it the sensitivity around touching items, people may simply get out of the habit of picking up other people’s litter. We risk losing a civic behaviour which is vital in keeping our country clean,” concludes Mr Horgan.


Cleaner than European Norms

1 Kilkenny

2 Killarney

3 Ennis

4 Tullamore

Clean to European Norms

5 Portlaoise

6 Fermoy

7 Bray

8 Waterford City Centre

9 Newbridge

10 Maynooth

11 Sligo

12 Castlebar

13 Gorey

14 Ranelagh

15 Letterkenny

16 Athlone

17 Tralee

Moderately Littered

18 Limerick City Centre

19 Galway City Centre

20 Roscommon

21 Drogheda

22 Waterford City - Ballybeg

23 Cavan

24 Cork City Centre

25 Longford

26 Galway Inner City - Ballybane

27 Monaghan

28 Dundalk

29 Dublin City Centre

30 Tipperary


31 Tallaght

32 Mahon - Cork City

33 Mullingar

34 Navan

35 Limerick City South - Galvone

Seriously Littered

36 Dublin North Inner City

37 Ballymun