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Clarecastle Tidy Towns volunteers have returned to the streets for the annual National Spring Clean for 2021.

An Taisce’s National anti-litter Spring Clean campaign takes place throughout the month of April. Last year, 500,000 volunteers collected 2,900 tonnes of litter nationally.

This year, Clarecastle Tidy Towns registered 30 groups of volunteers, who completed their first clean up for this year’s Spring Clean on Good Friday.

“Since last year, we have been keeping to strict guidelines. People have been working individually or in their own family bubbles. It’s great to see so many younger people joining us for our annual Spring Clean. We are out there every Monday night collecting a huge amount of litter,” stated Chairman Christy Leyden, who lives beside Clare Abbey.

Since the start of the pandemic, Clarecastle Tidy Towns have had to forego traditional in person meetings and have enjoyed a premium Zoom licence, which allows them to host virtual video conferences online with no time limit imposed. This is shared with local groups such as Clarecastle GAA, Clarecastle Men’s Shed and the Clarecastle Covid Support Network.

The group, which reformed in 2009, has now seen an uptake in members that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend local meetings due to work or childbearing commitments. Christy has lauded the new change and commented that Zoom has both enabled the group to continue working and has also allowed those who otherwise wouldn’t have touched technology, to get involved.

In spite of enduring one of Europe’s longest lockdowns, casual littering is on the rise in Ireland, he added. This has been noted during this year’s Spring Clean 2021 and Christy has remarked that Clare Abbey is one of the biggest littering hotspots within the county. Last year, 30 formal complaints were made about casual littering and fly-tipping in the locality. This year, a total of 10 complaints have already been lodged with Clare County Council. Christy is calling for increased proactive engagement on offences and visibility after a complaint is formally registered with the authorities.

“There is a very small minority doing it on a continuous basis. We link this back to a very poor County Clare Litter Management Plan. This needs to be changed. We need a cross-county ambitious plan. We need a comprehensive plan with specific goals, targets and measurements. After I report something through the See it Say it App, I get no visibility as to what happens. Volunteers are being taken for granted and there are major issues that need to be addressed. We need CCTV in known litter areas,” Christy, who took the winning photo at the National Tidy Towns Photography Competition 2020, admonished.

Mary Kearney and Declan McInerney.

He believes that volunteers can be used for a lot better purposes than picking up other people’s litter. Clarecastle Tidy Towns is looking to move towards a future focused on biodiversity and sustainability. Some upcoming projects include the flowering of minimal water waste baskets outside of businesses within the village. A biodiversity plan has been devised for People’s Park, with works expected to commence following confirmation of funding. This year, Christy asserted that an emphasis has been placed on reducing the cutting of hedges and allowing grass such as that at Clare Abbey to grow and flourish, as pollinator sites. In addition, the use of weed killer has been halted completely, adding extra workload on volunteers but is positively impacting the environment.

“We are looking to work with all local groups towards a brighter future centred on biodiversity and sustainability. We urge everyone to use their own reusable cups, as we are seeing single use plastics making up 90 per cent of casual littering we find to date. We are hoping to continue working on a monthly basis through Zoom and with our clean ups every Monday evening and love to see new faces every time,” he concluded.

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