PORTLAOISE has been branded Ireland's dirtiest town.
The busy midlands town is at the bottom of the annual Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) name-and-shame litter league published today.
It was the only town in Ireland deemed to have a serious litter problem.
The Co Laois blackspot was closely followed by Dublin and Cork, New Ross in Co Wexford, Nenagh in Co Tipperary and Mallow in Co Cork, all of which were found to be badly littered.
An Taisce, which carried out the survey, criticised the "long-term neglect and abuse" evident at many places in the two main cities.
While the centres of both Dublin and Cork were clean, the report said approach and ring roads were heavily littered.
IBAL wants people to become litter "whistleblowers" by photographing blackspots in their areas and sending the pictures to the organisation, which,in turn, will pass them on to the relevant local authority.
It blamed a lack of co-ordination between local councils and the National Roads Authority for the litter problem.
"Less-affluent estates and secondary streets are also magnets for litter, suggesting city councils may be catering for the city centres to the neglect of peripheral areas," it said.
IBAL is encouraging cities to look at the Copenhagen model, which involves subdividing cities into districts forming their own 'litter league'.
Authorities in the Danish capital have consulted with IBAL on adapting its league format as part of its goal of being Europe's cleanest city by 2013.
The Republic's cleanest town will be selected today from a shortlist comprising Carlow, Drogheda, Longford, Trim and Wexford.
IBAL chairman Dr Tom Cavanagh said city authorities faced challenges such as the prevalence of dumping, discarded fast-food and litter connected with late-night activity.
"But with cities lagging behind, we can't pretend we're near to solving the litter problem. Unless Dublin and Cork are clean, Ireland can't be clean," he said.
Chewing gum continues to blight what are otherwise clean areas, with IBAL citing the example of Killarney.
"Killarney's town centre is a model for others to follow, with horse-fouling now a thing of the past, and attractive, newly-paved streets. Sadly, the unsightly gum on the new pavements is tarnishing the overall environment. The town should take a stand against the gum manufacturers on this, and IBAL would help in this," Dr Cavanagh said.
"Killarney is too important a tourist destination to do nothing about it."
On a positive note, the survey found that almost three-quarters of the 53 towns surveyed were deemed clean to European norms.
Dr Cavanagh said a clean Ireland was critical to enhancing our international reputation
"This continuing improvement in a time of cutbacks shows what we can do in spite of smaller budgets," he said.
IBAL is inviting people to submit photos as part of a "litter twitter" campaign to alert local authorities to litter-ridden areas
Photos can be emailed to email@example.com and IBAL can be followed at twitter.com/litterspotter.