A record fifth time at top of IBAL rankings for Kilkenny
For a record fifth time, Kilkenny City has topped the rankings in the final litter survey of 2020 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL).
The Marble City finished ahead of Killarney, Ennis and Tullamore. Litter levels nationwide increased since the previous survey with fewer than half of the towns surveyed being deemed clean.
“There is surely a lesson in this result for other towns – while the majority of towns have deteriorated during Covid, Kilkenny has been maintained in pristine condition," noted An Taisce's report.
"All approach routes were top ranking and created a positive first impression of the town – this high standard was sustained for almost all of the remaining sites and there were no seriously littered sites. With so many top-ranking sites, special mention. High Street, Upper and Lower John Street, River Nore River Walk (behind Kilkenny Castle) and the grounds of Kilkenny Castle Park – all were excellent with regard to not just litter, but overall presentation and maintenance.”
Chairman of Keep Kilkenny Beautiful Peter Bluett says KKB are very pleased with the announcement.
"Congratulations to Kilkenny County Council staff, local businesses, community groups, resident associations and all our Keep Kilkenny Beautiful volunteers who have continued to work under difficult conditions to keep Kilkenny beautiful," he said.
In all, litter levels rose in 24 of the 37 towns and cities inspected by An Taisce at the end of 2020, resulting in only 17 being judged to be clean – a fall of over 25% on last summer and in sharp contrast to just 3 years ago, when 80% were clean. According to IBAL, the survey results are consistent with a trend in recent years.
“The decline in cleanliness is less a case of the poorer areas getting worse, but of previously clean towns slipping to littered,” says IBAL spokesperson Conor Horgan.
“Covid is clearly a factor here, but we should never accept litter as inevitable. It comes down to people disposing of their waste without regard for their surroundings or their fellow citizens and it is entirely unnecessary.”
One explanation for the rise in litter lies in the restrictions surrounding cleaning services during the pandemic.
“While council workers have not been on the streets as much as normal, the general public has been spending more time than ever out of doors,” says Mr Horgan. There was a sharp rise in the amounts of litter on approach roads to towns, reflecting the fact that the benign winter has seen masses of people out walking. “Ironically, too many of them are showing a shameful disregard for the environment they are enjoying.”
Coffee cups were among the most prevalent litter types found, while there was another rise in glass bottles and cans, suggesting that outdoor drinking has not waned over the winter months. The survey also showed that the second half of 2020 brought a further increase in PPE-related litter, primarily masks.
“Eight months into the pandemic, we would have hoped people would have moved to reusable masks with a resulting fall in mask-related litter. In fact, we are seeing more and more of them ending up our streets,” says Mr Horgan.
The report highlighted a continued rise in the number of blackspots in towns and cities. IBAL was once again critical of the failure of local authorities to address sites that had been identified in previous surveys as heavily littered. Thirty-six such sites were revisited in this latest survey, yet only 11% were found to have been cleaned up and more than a quarter had actually worsened.
According to IBAL, the reluctance among civic-minded people to pick up litter during the pandemic may carry long term consequences.
“While people have certainly become more attuned to their natural surroundings and more conscious of how litter can spoil those surroundings, this is offset by an understandable unwillingness to pick up waste for fear of contamination," said Mr Horgan.
"As the pandemic endures, and with it the sensitivity around touching items, people may simply get out of the habit of picking up other people’s litter. We risk losing a civic behaviour which is vital in keeping our country clean."
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