Derek Carroll from Canton Casey's cleaning up at the Market Square in Mullingar this morning (Monday).

Canal litter a problem, but Market Square area praised

A serious litter presence along the Royal Canal earned criticism for Mullingar in the first post-lockdown survey by Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL), released today, Monday.

While overall the town registered what IBAL described as “a significant improvement” since its disappointing result in late 2020, and is now classified as “moderately littered”, the canal was found to be “by far the most heavily littered site surveyed”.

“It wasn’t just casually littered but subject to dumping of larger items eg, shopping trolley and other miscellaneous items,” the report stated.

There was also criticism of the recycling bins area in the car park near the county buildings, with problems in the area to the rear of the units.

More positively, all three of the approach roads surveyed got the top litter grade. Other top-ranking sites included Oliver Plunkett Street (the pedestrianised zone was particularly freshly presented and maintained) and Mullingar Town Park – described as “a lovely park environment with all elements within, in good condition”.

The survey found Portlaoise to be the cleanest of the of 40 areas surveyed nationwide. It was at the foot of the table in 2010. Other good reports for the midlands were that Tullamore and Athlone both retained their “clean” status.

While the majority of towns have cleaned up over the last 12 months, litter in the main cities has worsened to levels not seen in 10 years, according to IBAL.

The An Taisce report for Athlone stated: “A very good result for Athlone with over the half of the sites surveyed getting the top litter grade and just one seriously littered site. The town centre sites were the ones which tended to get the top litter grade e.g., Athlone Castle, Car Park at Golden Island Shopping Centre, Sean Costello Street / Dublin Gate Street / Church Street and the Riverwalk from Athlone Castle to the White Bridge. In many instances the overall environment was enhanced by seating, planting and good visitor information notices. By far the most heavily littered site surveyed was Athlone Municipal Recycle Facility – it wasn’t just casually littered but there were heavy accumulations of a wide variety of litter at the base of the shrubbery around the perimeter.”

The number of areas deemed clean by An Taisce, who carry out the survey on behalf of IBAL, rose from 17 to 23. In all, 68pc of towns showed an improvement on last year.

IBAL’s Conor Horgan stated: “With local authority cleaning schedules normalising again and volunteer groups re-engaged in clean-ups across the country, our towns are almost as clean as two years ago. This is still some way short of where they were in 2014, however.”

The study showed a near-30pc increase in the prevalence of PPE masks on our streets and an increase in alcohol-related litter such as cans and bottles.

“The need for PPE has not abated – unfortunately we’re still using disposable masks, we’re still dropping them at an alarming rate and they are still not being picked up,” says Conor Horgan. “We are consuming more outdoors and this is translating into more food- and drink-related litter.”

Despite this, the survey showed a 20pc drop in coffee cup litter. There was also a steep fall-off in cigarette butts.