The bridge at Lanesboro. Photo: Brigid Mullooly
In a survey of of Ireland’s rivers, beaches and harbours, Lanesboro was one of only four areas nationwide deemed to be “Clean to European Norms”.
The first nationwide survey by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) of Ireland’s rivers, beaches and harbours has revealed that the River Shannon at Portumna in Galway is ‘heavily littered’ and is deemed ‘littered’ at the University of Limerick.
The study, carried out by An Taisce, showed only 4 of 50 areas surveyed were deemed “Clean to European Norms”, among them the Shannon at Carrick on Shannon and Lanesboro.
The An Taisce report for Lanesboro stated: “Generally, it was very clean with a virtual absence of litter. The area also scored very well with regard to marine related litter. This site was not just well maintained but also enhanced by a large sculpture and some colourful planting.”
The An Taisce report for Carrick on Shannon stated: “The riverwalk pathway and boardwalk were very attractively presented and maintained. There was some lovely planting in the immediate vicinity. The water was clear. The overall impression created here was of a very clean environment with a virtual absence of litter throughout.”
The An Taisce report for Portumna stated: “The Waterways Ireland site beside the bridge was very clean . The Emerald Star site had large accumulations of litter - much of it was 'long-lie'. Within the survey area there was also some marine litter from boats (rope and pieces of wood) and debris (equipment and materials) from a derelict construction site. There was some white plastic in the vicinity of upturned green boats.”
The An Taisce report for UL stated: “The poor litter ranking was due to two separate areas of litter accumulations - at the bathing area and on the opposite side of the river next to the bridge. The most prevalent land-based litter types were food wrappers, sweet papers, plastic bottles and cigarette butts. Apart from these areas there were traces of litter in most areas.”
The An Taisce report for Athlone stated: “There was a mix of both typical litter and marine related litter. As well as this there was a dead fish and dead bird and some building materials. Cigarette butts were very pronounced on the land with lower levels of other food related litter and polystyrene. Marine related litter included pieces of wood, rope and tubing.”
The results contrast with those of IBAL’s recent surveys of towns across the country which show 75% of areas to be clean, compared to just 8% in this survey. “Sadly, accumulations of litter in and around our waterways are a common sight in Ireland and this is borne out by these disappointing results,” comments Conor Horgan of IBAL. “If we can call our towns clean, we cannot say the same for the areas around our beaches and rivers. It took almost ten years of naming and shaming for local authorities to get to grips with litter in our towns. IBAL has set about pushing for a similar turnabout in respect of coastal areas and waterways.”
IBAL has been publishing litter surveys since 2002 as part of its Anti-Litter League programme, which has helped bring about a spectacular shift in litter levels. 16 years ago, less than 10% of the towns surveyed were deemed ‘Clean’. The most recent report shows three-quarters of towns attaining Clean status.
“The objective of this new campaign is to rid our coasts and waterways of litter, as they are central to the country’s appeal to visitors and an integral part of the clean image we project. Aside from this commercial motivation, our research brings into focus the broader issue of marine litter and the need to stem the vast amounts of plastic and other litter which is entering and killing our oceans.”
The most common forms of litter found by the assessors were cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, plastic bottles and cans.
“We are a small island and often subject to wet and windy weather. When someone casually drops a plastic bottle or cigarette butt on the street, the likelihood of it being blown into a local river or swept into a drain to then enter the sea is very high,” continues Horgan. “This litter isn’t just unsightly, it is contributing to lasting, potentially irreparable damage to our planet. This is the new face of litter.”
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. For every foot of coastline in the world, the equivalent of 5 grocery bags filled with plastic ends up in our oceans each year. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.