A new report produced by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, brings up worrying signs regarding the issue of litter and dog fouling throughout the country during the pandemic.
The Cleaner Neighbourhoods report, which details the findings of the 2020 Northern Ireland Litter Survey, highlights an increase in the levels of litter and dog fouling and a continued decline in the ‘cleanliness’ of streets, Roads and Public Spaces.
Figures from the survey show that 18% of the transects surveyed were deemed to be an unacceptable standard for cleanliness. This represents an increase in the number sites failing to meet the grade in 2019.
Findings and Insights
• The presence of dog fouling across Northern Ireland increased significantly from 6% of transects surveyed in 2019 to 13% in 2020. This is the highest level of dog fouling since the beginning of the surveys in 2012.
• The most commonly observed item of litter on Northern Ireland’s streets and public spaces remains cigarette butts. These were found to appear across all land use types with 69% of surveyed areas having at least one cigarette butt present, although this was seen as high as 93% and 94% along primary and secondary retail transects.
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was recorded on 3% of all streets and open spaces surveyed. It can be estimated that at any one time there could be 5,272 gloves and 2,000 masks on our streets and open spaces.
• Rural roads remain disproportionately affected by litter when compared with residential, retail and recreational areas. 48% of rural roads failed to reach an acceptable standard for litter. This litter is clearly coming from people throwing it out of their cars. The survey found that 41% of rural roads had takeaway litter present, 66% had confectionary litter present and 89% of all rural roads had drink related litter present.
It is perhaps not surprising that litter and dog fouling levels have risen given that the cleaning spend for Northern Ireland has dropped by nearly a third in two years, from £45,million in 2017 to just £31 million in 2019.
Commenting on the report Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said
“Preventing littering requires all of us to do something. Government legislating to help end our dependence on single use items, people taking care to dispose of waste properly and businesses paying a fair share of the costs of cleaning up their packaging and cigarette butts are all needed to make a lasting difference.
We have a growing litter problem that we need to face up to as a community. The cost to our environment and public purse is too great a burden for us to bear. The pandemic has seen us care for the vulnerable in society. It is now time we extended that care for our vulnerable environment. As more people discover and enjoy the great outdoors we must all take our litter home or use the bins provided. To do anything else is to destroy what we hold dear.”