Galway maintains clean status in latest litter league table

Galway city saw one of its best results yet in the lastest IBAL litter rankings, maintaining its status at 19th place in the list of 40 towns and cities inspected during the final quarter of 2023.

The survey, published this week, saw the city centre get a top litter grade in 15 of the 25 sites inspected.

Meanwhile Ballybane, which was deemed moderately littered, improved its ranking to 30th of 40.

The report for Galway city, compiled by An Taisce on behalf of Irish Business Against Litter, described the city’s result as “one of its best” in the survey’s 21-year history.

“Not only was it a great result, but previously heavily littered sites had improved significantly, eg, Galway University Hospital and Eyre Square,” the report stated. “With so many top-ranking sites, it’s hard to mention them all but a few deserve a special mention, eg various canal walks/board walks/bridges, Claude Toft Playground, Cappagh Park and Barna Woods, Shop Street and Cross Street. One litter blackspot, at Westside Amenity Park, prevented the city from getting a higher ranking.”

Ballybane, while still considered moderately littered under the criteria of the survey, was also deemed to have a positive result due to the level of improvement in the area over time. The eastern city suburb made its first appearance towards the bottom of the league some years ago.

"This time around there was just one heavily littered site, at Castlepark - considerably less than the previous IBAL litter surveys," the report said. "Two of the most notable improvements were at Ballybane Village and Ballybane Industrial Estate – while they were both still somewhat littered it’s certainly a big improvement on their former ‘blackspot’ status. The residential area of Clareview Park, Glassan Student Accommodation and Organic Community Garden were all very much deserving of the top litter grade."

Maynooth claimed top spot in the latest litter league, and for the first time since surveys began 20 years ago, no area in the country was deemed seriously littered.

While litter levels rose slightly nationwide, more than 60 per cent of towns surveyed were deemed clean in 2023, with Maynooth edging out Mallow and much improved Sligo to take the title of cleanest town.

Waterford was again the cleanest city, ahead of Galway. These two were the only cities to be judged clean, with Cork city centre improving to ‘moderately littered’ while both Dublin and Limerick fell to littered status.

“There is some good news in our cities, however,” says Conor Horgan of IBAL this week. “For years our worst performing areas were deemed either litter blackspots or seriously littered. This baseline would seem to be changing, with littered becoming the bottom tier. Cleanliness begets cleanliness, and there is reason to hope the improvement will continue in future years.”

IBAL expects the upcoming Deposit Return Scheme — which will see consumers pay a deposit on plastic bottles and metal cans, which can be redeemed at return banks — will improve cleanliness levels further. However the pressure group is also calling for action on coffee cups, which were found to be close to peak Covid levels.

Discarded coffee cups were found at over 30 per cent of the 500-plus sites surveyed. “We are concerned at potential delays in introducing a coffee cup levy,” Conor Horgan continued. “We believe this action is needed to stamp out a product which is out of step with the circular economy. Irrespective of how recyclable or compostable take-away cups are, these statistics show too many of them are ending up on our streets.”

According to IBAL the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme next month is a "potential game-changer" in the fight against litter, similar in effect to the plastic bag levy. The scheme will see consumers pay a deposit of 15 cent on cans and up to 25 cent on plastic bottles, refundable on their return.

“This latest survey shows these items to be present in just under half of the hundreds of sites we surveyed," Mr Horgan added. "This scheme will remove a large portion of this litter and bring about a significantly cleaner environment in 2024. While there may be some inconvenience for consumers, the prize is a very real, and a very immediate one.”

There was another significant rise in the prevalence of disposable vapes, highlighted previously as an emerging source of litter. These were found in more than 10 per cent of all sites covered.


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