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Only four towns have less litter than Arklow in national survey

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Main Street, Arklow. Photo; Leigh Anderson.

Main Street, Arklow. Photo; Leigh Anderson.

Main Street, Arklow. Photo; Leigh Anderson.

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Arklow has taken fifth place out of 40 Irish towns and cities in the final survey of 2021 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) and is ‘Cleaner than European Norms’.

Arklow drops one place compared to the post-lockdown survey released in October while Naas moved up seven spots to rank first for the year. Portlaoise, Ennis and Leixlip rank higher than Arklow too. Only nice towns and cities are cleaner than European norms.

Sandra Duffy from Arklow Tidy Towns was beaming when she heard that Arklow ranked fifth in the country.

She said: “It is great to say the words ‘Arklow is cleaner than European norms.’ I think a few years ago we were second from last and look at us now.

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"We have such a strong community and phenomenal volunteers. Some of them can’t be with us every week but they take on a project or adopt a spot to keep tidy. It gives us a great feeling of pride and credibility in the town, I feel like putting the whole community up on a pedestal.

"When we achieve this ranking, people feel part of the success. When I hear about other towns getting dirtier during the pandemic I think of how Arklow did it in reverse, we got cleaner.”

An Taisce carried out the survey on behalf of IBAL and the report for Arklow said: “This is another excellent result for Arklow, with well over half of the sites surveyed getting the top litter grade, and no seriously littered sites.

"The main street presented particularly well, especially considering the high number of closed down/For Sale/To Let premises. The Bring Facility at Croghan Recycle Centre was spotless and clearly it is a very well respected and maintained environment.

"Other top-ranking sites included the Avoca Riverwalk and Arklow Sports & Leisure Centre. The latter was adorned by colourful murals, a welcome feature in what would otherwise be a very grey environment.”

Ms Duffy says that as one area of the town got cleaner it had a positive effect on other parts of the town.

"Take the recycling centre for example which was praised, the staff there have done so much work to keep it tidy and have planted some shrubs there too,” she said.

"It’s sort of like a domino effect, when people see the centre is tidy they’ll respect it more and do their bit to keep it tidy.

"With Arklow Tidy Towns we went out on the public roads and the entrances to estates and kept them tidy. During the pandemic people who couldn’t go further than their two kilometres saw us and decided to keep the front of their house or the green areas in their estates tidy. Then people in the next estate saw what they were doing and had to keep up.

"It had a ripple effect.

"We painted some of the neglected buildings in the town and then existing businesses got grants from the council to paint their premises too. Young people have come to us looking to help or to find out more too.

At the start we got a little bit of resistance in the town but now we see the pride in people's faces when they look at Arklow.”

According to the study, nationwide litter levels have risen slightly, with cities faring particularly badly. PPE litter was found to be at its highest level since the pandemic began. There was a slight fall in the number of clean towns nationwide, to 22.

Cork and Limerick City Centres, both littered, showed a deterioration on the previous survey, while Dublin City Centre fell to heavily littered. Galway City lost its clean status, leaving Waterford as the country’s only clean city.

The report showed PPE at record levels, with an increase in the presence of both masks and gloves.

“It would appear that this litter is accumulating as the pandemic continues, as there remains an understandable reticence to pick up other people’s PPE,” said Conor Horgan from IBAL.

“The disposable blue face mask has become a ubiquitous part of the landscape up and down the country. People have not moved to reusable masks and people are not taking care of their masks.

"International research has found PPE litter accounts for as much as 5 percent of all litter, and is likely to have ‘a devastating, lasting effect on the environment.’”

There was a significant rise in other pandemic-related litter, such as coffee cups, while alcohol-related litter remained at previous levels despite hospitality reopening and the survey being conducted in winter.

IBAL has frequently criticised the failure of local authorities to clean up sites identified in its surveys as heavily littered, and this was again the case. Of 89 such sites highlighted in summer last year, only 33 percent had been addressed by the time of this most recent survey.


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