IRELAND has never been so clean, with more than 80pc of towns and cities now considered as clean or cleaner than the accepted European norm.
It was good news too for Dublin after an Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) survey showed that for the first time in 18 years, the city centre has ended the year clean.
But it warned that the north inner city remains a litter blackspot, and raised concerns about the number of empty business premises across the country.
While initiatives such as pop-up shops, decorative murals and incentives for start-ups are helping to minimise the negative impact of unoccupied units, IBAL said a more concerted effort is required from local authorities.
"The issue needs to be tackled on a more systematic level, with a person in each authority allocated responsibility for saving town centres," said IBAL chairman Dr Tom Cavanagh.
"In the UK, a Distressed Town Centre Taskforce has emerged to deal with this issue, calling for designated areas where compulsory purchase orders could apply."
The survey of 42 towns and cities carried out by An Taisce shows 19 are cleaner than European averages, with 16 others in line with the norms. All of our cities are clean, with this year's city of culture, Limerick, showing an improvement.
The environs of Dublin Airport have slipped to 37th out of 42 areas surveyed. While the airport grounds are "spotless", the roads around it are littered.
Branding Dublin's north inner city a litter blackspot, An Taisce inspectors said: "The worst-performing sites were not just littered but subjected to long-term dumping and neglect. Upper Buckingham Street and Marlborough Place were both in a terrible state."
Sweet papers, cigarette ends, fast-food packaging and chewing gum were the most common forms of litter last year.
Ireland's cleanest town will be unveiled at an awards ceremony in Dublin later today.