It's not just tourists that deserve clean streets
Published 31/08/2015 | 02:30
In any league, there must be losers as well as winners. Readers reviewing the IBAL Anti Litter League survey will naturally look to the bottom of the rankings as much as the top.
They will see a 'littered' Dublin city and rightly bemoan the fact that the first impression most visitors are getting of Ireland is of a capital that is less than clean. It is especially disappointing, because our main tourist towns, notably table-topping Killarney, are cleaner than ever.
However, the most positive findings of the latest survey are also found towards the foot of the league. For the first time, no town or city is deemed a 'litter blackspot' or 'heavily littered'.
Finally, those neglected pockets of our cities, which have appeared impervious to change, are showing signs of improvement. Dublin's north inner city and Farranree in Cork are just two examples of urban areas where tourists or business people don't tend to stray. As a result, they are areas which tend to rank low on the priority list of the local authority.
But these are also places where people live. Surely residents have as much right to clean streets as tourists ?
IBAL believes so, and has been pushing the councils to take action. They are responding, but the task of ridding disadvantaged urban areas of litter will not be achieved overnight.
We've seen the initiatives Dublin City Council in particular are spearheading and the inroads they are starting to make. Only time will tell if this progress is sustainable.
A British colleague recently recounted an experiment where one side of a shopping street in the UK was cleaned as normal, while the other side was left littered. The likelihood of pedestrians on the clean side dropping litter was found to be much less than of those on the littered side.
There is an important lesson here. When we invest in keeping streets clean for a period, they tend to stay clean.
Most of us think twice before disposing of our sweet wrappers on a clean pavement. And so, a culture of cleanliness emerges, which is the basis for long-term success.
Let's hope the same applies to those neglected urban areas which have improved over the past year. Only then can we shout with confidence about our beautiful and clean country.
Conor Horgan is spokesperson for Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL)