Companies urged to clean up litter in dirty old towns
IRISH towns are getting dirtier, with just half of those surveyed now classed as clean.
Businesses have been asked to polish up their acts as the new study shows a dramatic fall in the number of towns across the country deemed to be 'litter free'.
The Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group also recorded a fall in the number of towns classed as 'clean to European norms'.
Of 53 towns surveyed, just over half (27) received the accolade -- down from two-thirds on a similar study last year.
The survey also shows that gum litter is increasing and that primary routes into our main cities are often heavily littered.
Wexford was judged Ireland's cleanest town in the survey, which was conducted by An Taisce.
It praised the town's "consistently high standards of maintenance of the environment".
Sligo, Killarney and Letterkenny were the cleanest towns in their respective provinces, while Waterford emerged as the country's cleanest city.
But Tallaght, described as "showing signs of overall neglect, a big challenge that must be surmounted", dropped to last place in the league.
Tallaght and Portlaoise are the country's only 'litter black spots'.
Naas and Midleton, both judged to be 'seriously littered', join them at the foot of the table.
"While the drop in the number of litter-free towns is a disappointment, the overall result here is positive," said IBAL chairman Dr Tom Cavanagh. "The average score of all the towns surveyed is closer than ever to the European average."
The loss of litter-free status was caused in most cases by the neglect by county councils of approach roads, among them key entry points to airports and seaports. Unlike roads in urban areas, these are not subject to a cleaning schedule.
"Primary routes at the entrances to our main cities and ring roads are often heavily littered, and cleaning is infrequent and inconsistent," Dr Cavanagh said.
"Mr Gormley has allocated some money for cleaning up these areas, but what we really need are cleaning schedules for these routes, like those in Northern Ireland.
"We also need a portion of the funding which the National Roads Authority gives to county councils for general maintenance and cleaning to be set aside strictly for the purpose of cleaning up litter.
"Tourists visiting the country would quickly notice the change this would bring about."
The survey revealed a strong improvement in Dublin city centre, which, along with Galway and Cork City, was labelled 'moderately littered'.
Limerick was again the most littered city, but improved its rating from 'litter blackspot' at the end of 2009 to 'littered'.
Businesses should look to clean up outside their premises twice daily, including their car parks, according to IBAL. This would have an enormous impact on our streetscapes and reduce local authority cleaning costs, the group said.
IBAL has also launched a 'Litter Twitter' campaign to highlight local blackspots. Members of the public are being asked to report and send pictures of littered areas so that business owners can be shamed into action.
Photos can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org and IBAL can be followed at twitter.com/litterspotter.