AN element of personal responsibility “must be brought to bear to resolve the scourge of littering and illegal dumping”, Cork City Council has said.
The local authority acknowledged that, while it has a role in the upkeep of the public realm, the public also had to be held to account.
“We cannot solve the problem of littering on our own,” the council said. “Tackling this issue must be done in conjunction and partnership with all sectors of society, including building/landowners and other bodies who have responsibility for the upkeep of certain aspects of public infrastructure.”
The local authority’s comments come in the wake of an Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) survey, which saw Cork city centre slip in the rankings, joining Mahon and Cork’s northside in the “littered” category.
In a response to The Echo regarding the survey, the council said the classification of the city centre as littered did not take into account “the hard work and dedication of the city council’s street sweeping crews, who are out seven days a week from early morning to late in the evening”.
It added: “We also note that the city centre survey includes a number of derelict sites, which fall outside the remit of the street cleaning crews, and that the survey continues to include approach roads and other areas which are located well outside the actual city centre, eg Dunkettle Interchange, Kinsale Road Roundabout, and the N40 South Ring Road.
“Many of the issues identified fall within the responsibility of private landowners to resolve.
“In addition, consideration needs to be given to the health and safety requirements of litter management on many of the high-speed approach roads to the city and, thus, these locations cannot be classified in the same way as a city street.”
Cork City Council also said the survey results needed to be “read in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, which has put a severe strain on local authority resources.
The council said it would review the IBAL report findings with a view to assessing what changes, further actions, or new initiatives may be needed to help bring about better outcomes for the whole city in future surveys.
Speaking to The Echo in relation to the survey, Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh, former Cork lord mayor, also called on people to “play their part” in ensuring the city is clean and tidy.
Mr Kavanagh, who is a member of his local Tidy Towns Committee, said it didn’t take a lot to make an area look heavily littered.
“It just takes a very small number of people to cause havoc for the whole community,” he said. “The practical solution is that we all take personal responsibility.
“If you’re out and you’ve got rubbish, take it home with you or put it in the bin.
“If we all play our own little part in making concerted efforts, we can keep our city litter-free,” he said.
Green Party councillor for Cork South Central Dan Boyle said, in the case of the city centre, he believed the decline in performance was a “temporary phenomenon” due to congregations of people gathering in the city following the easing of restrictions.
“I’m not surprised in the sense that, when we’ve had opening ups after lockdowns, people have gravitated towards the city centre and it becomes more obvious,” he said.
“I think to be fair to city council in terms of street cleaning and in terms of providing additional spaces for disposing of litter — we have a new set of solar-powered compactor bins in the city — they have done what can be done.
“The main problem is culture really. We have too many people in our society who think they can throw things away and that someone else will pick it up after them.”
Cork TD Thomas Gould said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the results of the IBAL survey.
Mr Gould said he agreed with a lot of the points made in the report and said the survey had an important role in ensuring that the pressure for change is kept on council and Government.
Mr Gould said there were a lot of great clean-up groups across the city, but a lot of them stopped meeting during the lockdowns, which had resulted in a build-up of waste that needed to be tackled.
The Sinn Féin TD said the local authority was doing the best it could with limited resources, but it wasn’t good enough in his opinion.