The latest litter survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) has found the River Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon to be among only 7 sites of the 42 surveyed to be deemed “clean”.
While the majority of our towns are clean, our beaches and waterways are not, according to the study. 14% of areas were classed as ‘littered’ or ‘heavily littered’.
Beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs were monitored by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce over the course of the summer.
The An Taisce report for the River Shannon at Carrick-on-Shannon stated: It is great to see this site perform as well as in the 2018 survey. Overall, this was an excellent site. The area assessed was clean and very well maintained. Overflowing bins were responsible for small amounts of litter to be seen. An awareness campaign on feeding the ducks / birds (e.g. can cause algae blooms, low nutritional value to birds, etc.) might address the small amounts of bread wrappers in the water. The pedestrian pathway, railings, signage, etc. and immediate hinterland were in very good order.
Once again Salthill emerged as one of the cleanest beaches, alongside Curracloe in Wexford and Seapoint in Dublin.
While Lough Rea and the River Nore in Kilkenny were clean, the Barrow in Carlow town and the Tolka in Dublin were both heavily littered. KiImore Quay harbour was clean, but Cork Harbour near Midleton was once again heavily littered and among the worst areas surveyed.
Previously a litter blackspot, the pier at Doolin in Clare was “moderately littered”, as were the popular tourist destinations of Bundoran, Dingle, Kinsale and Lahinch.
“Our regular surveys consistently show 80% of our towns to be clean. We cannot say the same for our beaches and waterways,” comments Conor Horgan of IBAL.
“For us as a business group this is about protecting tourism and our recreational assets, but it is equally about global impact and our future - the litter we encounter in these areas will typically enter our seas and add to the problem of marine litter, which is threatening our very survival.”
The need for action around plastic pollution in the marine and aquatic environment is now well established. Worldwide, billions of kilos of disgarded plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans, making up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. Recent studies have also highlighted the potential impact of marine litter on our climate, as plastic consumed by plankton may impair a key role of the ocean in trapping CO2 from our atmosphere.
“Litter as we know it has acquired a wholly new importance for society,” says Mr Horgan.
“This is especially true for an island like Ireland, where litter can readily wind its way to the sea irrespective of where it is dropped. When it comes to marine litter the sea starts at every household, street, green space and workplace.”
The most common forms of litter found by the assessors were food wrappers, plastic bottles, cans and cigarette butts. New research has shown even a single butt can contaminate up to 200 litres of ground water. Fishing industry-related litter (e.g. nets, ropes, strapping bands, floats, etc.) occurred throughout almost all marine sites.
Irish Business Against Litter has been conducting surveys of towns and cities since 2002 and has witnessed a spectacular rise in cleanliness over that period. This is the second year that the study has extended to coastal areas and waterways.
“We have seen significant improvement year on year but will keep putting pressure on local authorities and others to give priority to these areas and support the work of the thousands of volunteers cleaning litter from our coastlines. There is no reason why they should not be as clean as our towns.”
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