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*Photograph: John Mangan

Ennis is one of only four towns and cities in the country deemed to be cleaner than European norms.

In October, Ennis was ranked as the sixth cleanest in the country, it has now jumped to third position behind Kilkenny and Killarney following the final litter survey of 2020 by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL), the results of which were published on Monday.

Kilkenny took the crown for a record 5th time, and Killarney. For the first time in 13 years, fewer than half of the towns surveyed nationwide were deemed clean.

An Taisce’s report stated that Ennis’ performance was “typically strong” and was among only four towns deemed to be cleaner than European norms. Eight out of the ten sites surveyed received the top litter grade. Gort Rd Business Park continues to be heavily littered.

“Both O’Connell Street and Abbey Street were pedestrianised, creating an enhanced shopping environment. There were some vacant / closed down outlets on Abbey Street but there was no litter directly associated with them. Other top-ranking sites in Ennis included Tim Smythe Park, Ennis Friary and Ennis Recycle Centre – not only were they very good with regard to litter but also well presented and maintained”.

Litter levels nationally 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. Ennis was the only Clare area inspected.

A sharp rise was recorded in the quantity of littler on approach roads to towns due to increased walking. IBAL spokesperson, Conor Horgan commented, “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.

IBAL was once again critical of local authorities for failing to address sites identified in previous surveys as heavily littered. The report highlighted a continued rise in the number of blackspots in towns and cities.

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. 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,” Horgan added.

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