CORK city has slipped into the "moderately littered" category in the latest round of the Irish Business Against Litter survey, while Fermoy retains its “clean” status.
However, Mahon has also slipped down the tabled in the survey of 37 towns. It ranks at 34.
Cork city is now in the “moderately littered” category, ranked at 24.
IBAL has noted an increase in the amount of masks being discarded as litter, and highlighted a fear among the public of picking up litter because of a fear of contamination.
In a report by An Taisce, areas of the city which were littered included Wilton Road, the South Ring Road, Sarsfield Road Roundabout and Commons Road.
The report said: “The latter was by far the most heavily littered. Food related litter, particularly fast-food wrapper and plastic bottles was noted at many of these approach roads. Lr John Street was a litter blackspot. Douglas Street deserves a special mention for the great effort and initiatives that have taken place in terms of overall presentation; Half Moon Street was exceptionally freshly presented and excellent with regard to litter; the residential areas of Magazine Road and Tramore Lawn were very much deserving of the top litter grade; Connell Street had many buildings which were in poor order but clearly a careful eye is kept on them as there was no litter directly associated with them.”
The report also said some of the approach roads scored well, including the N27 South Link Road, Model Farm Road and Airport Road.
In relation to Mahon, the report said that the area has slipped slightly into the “littered” category after improving last summer.
The report continued: “One of the real jewels was Loughmahon Park – it is a wonderful resource and has been very well cared for. Both Mahon Point Retail Park and the Bottle / Clothing bank within were excellent, not just clear of litter but very freshly presented and maintained. Some of the poorer sites had been highlighted in previous IBAL surveys and there was little improvement this time around – the Pedestrian link off Ringmahon Road to Aldi (opposite Ashwood) was by far the most heavily littered. Lakelands Car Park and Lakelands Crescent were both poor.” The report for Fermoy, which ranked sixth out of the 37 surveyed towns, said the town was clean to European norms. It highlighted the three approach roads to the town as “top-ranking, creating a positive first impression of this town”.
The report continued: “This high standard was sustained for over half the sites, with three sites just missing the top grade. Fermoy Town Park was not just good with regard to litter but a very well presented and maintained environment. Abbey Street presented well with paving and painted buildings creating a positive impression.”
However, the report singled out the Mart Car Park as being “by far the most heavily littered site in Fermoy – not just casual litter but discarded shopping trolleys and general debris.”
IBAL spokesperson Conor Horgan said: “The decline in cleanliness is less a case of the poorer areas getting worse, but of previously clean towns slipping to littered. 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.
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. “Eight 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.
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.
Only 17 of the surveyed towns were judged to be clean – a fall of over 25% on last summer’s survey. Three years ago, 80% were deemed clean.