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€5 million additional funding for litter prevention and cleaning as Ireland prepares for an outdoor summer

5 May 2021

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  • 2020 National Litter Pollution Monitoring System results show cigarette litter, packaging litter, food-related litter and plastic litter to be the main causes of litter in our communities

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, has today announced €5 million in additional funding for litter infrastructure and awareness campaigns to encourage people to dispose of their rubbish thoughtfully.

As the economy re-opens, and Ireland prepares for an outdoor summer, we will enjoy a much higher level of outdoor dining and socialising, and local authorities have had to increase their spending on recycling and litter facilities.

Minister Ryan said:

“I am providing this extra funding to support local authorities so we can all enjoy an outdoor summer in a pleasant environment. The funding will add more recycling and litter facilities to meet increased demand – but it’s also up to all of us to clean up our act when it comes to litter, and make a conscious effort to leave no trace.”

The Minister has sought an immediate mapping of bin infrastructure to identify optimum placement of new bins and to pin point where smart solar-compacting bins could be feasible. Minister Ryan will also seek to harmonise the local authority response to the litter issue, to centralise procurement of materials, so that quality litter pickers, gloves, dog litter bags and bins are available. The aim will be to reduce costs, reduce duplication of effort and to harmonise the quality of product.

As well as the €5 million additional funding to the Local Authorities for litter infrastructure, the Minister today confirmed that a further €3 million in funding will be provided to local authorities in support of the 2021 Anti-Dumping Initiative which, since its inception in 2017, has supported the delivery of over 300 projects, many involving local community groups and resulted in the removal of over 10,000 tonnes of illegally dumped waste from our landscape.

The Minister has also approved €225,000 in funding for An Taisce in support of an extended 2021 National Spring Clean programme, which this year will run through the summer months due to the effect of the ongoing Covid situation on their traditional timetable.

Members of the Irish Waste Management Association in every county in Ireland have agreed to work with DECC to develop proposals that will assist with litter clean ups in local communities. This will be in addition to existing efforts undertaken by local communities to deal with the litter problem and is a very welcome development. DECC will also consider what additional enforcement supports can be applied, whether legislative or financial.

Today also marks the publication of the 2020 National Litter Pollution Monitoring System (NLPMS) Results. The NLPMS Results provide important statistical data on the extent, causes and composition of litter in Ireland.

In announcing the publication of the 2020 Results, Minister Ryan acknowledged the role being played by both local authorities and communities in tackling Ireland’s litter challenges and noted new proposals to combat litter.

Minister Ryan said:

“The results show that despite increased reporting of incidents of littering and illegal dumping during the Covid lockdown, the situation on the ground improved during 2020. We need to ensure that this is replicated in 2021. There was an upsurge in the number of volunteers in 2020 who gave their time to contribute to making their communities litter free and we should not take their efforts for granted. I am determined that this positive community spirit is recognised and supported and I will continue to steer investment towards programmes aimed at tackling littering and illegal dumping in a collaborative manner.”

While the solutions to litter have been provided locally by communities and local authority staff, 2020 also proves that a significant source of the problem is also local. With travel restrictions, we can no longer imagine that fly-tipping is entirely the work of passing strangers.

DECC continues to promote and support a number of environmental awareness raising programmes, including the Green Schools Programme, aimed at educating our young people on all aspects of the environment and the Anti-Litter and Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grants Scheme (ALAGS) which provides funding to local authorities to support community groups and raise awareness of litter issues. ALAGS will receive circa €745,000 in 2021.

The composition figures underscore the relative presence of cigarette-related litter, packaging litter, food-related litter and plastic litter. These are items which have associated initiatives in Ireland’s Waste Action Plan. The introduction of the Deposit and Return Scheme should also prove to have a significant impact. The trend here will be monitored in future reports.

In summary, the 2020 National Litter Pollution Monitoring System Results reveal:

  • The percentage of unpolluted (LPI 1) areas increased significantly from 17.3% in 2019 to 23.2% in 2020, while taken together, the percentage of unpolluted (LPI 1) and slightly polluted (LPI 2) areas combined increased by 1.5% over the period, indicating an improvement in litter pollution levels from 2019 to 2020
  • The main constituent elements of litter pollution nationwide in 2020 were cigarette-related litter (46.5%), packaging items (21.9%), food-related litter (11%) and sweet-related litter (9.5%)
  • The main causative factors of litter pollution nationally were identified as follows: passing pedestrians (40.6%), passing motorists (23.7%), retail outlets (8.7%), gathering points (5.3%) and places of leisure/entertainment (4.1%)

The 2020 NLPMS Results will be available in full on www.litter.ie

Tobin Consulting Engineers were appointed by DECC as the Litter Monitoring Body (LMB) in May 2019 to oversee the ongoing operation of the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System (NLPMS), which was established in 1999, and to co-ordinate local authority implementation of same. The NLPMS generates, by means of local authority surveys (over 5,000 in 2020), reliable data to enable each local authority to measure, accurately over time, changes in the extent and composition of litter pollution in their functional areas, thus enabling more effective litter management planning.

In essence, the system requires local authorities to:

  • identify / map the potential sources of litter in their functional areas
  • use this data to identify survey locations to determine the composition and extent of litter pollution in their areas
  • carry out a series of surveys annually, the results of which can be compared to the “benchmark” and/or previous years survey results in order to measure progress in tackling litter, and to complete the appropriate survey forms for return to the LMB for analysis / assessment

The LMB, on receipt of the survey data from local authorities:

  • reports back to each local authority with its assessment of their survey data
  • collates the survey results in a national overview and presents it to the Department

There are two types of surveys conducted by local authorities:

  • Litter Pollution Surveys to determine the extent and severity of litter pollution
  • Litter Quantification Surveys to identify the composition (the type and origin) of litter pollution prevailing in a particular area

The litter quantification surveys identify nine broad categories of litter:

  • cigarette related litter
  • packaging litter
  • food related litter
  • sweet related litter
  • paper litter
  • plastic litter (non packaging litter like plastic cutlery, toys)
  • deleterious litter (dog fouling, nappies, needles, syringes)
  • large litter items (household appliances, furniture)
  • miscellaneous litter (items not covered by the other categories like twine, clothes, fabrics)

The initial series of surveys conducted in 2000/2001 allowed local authorities to establish “benchmark” assessments of the extent and composition of litter pollution in their functional areas, while the comparison of annual survey results with these benchmark surveys has allowed progress to be measured since then. The analysis of survey data enables local authorities to assess the effectiveness of their litter management strategies on an ongoing basis.

The data produced through the NLPMS surveys enables local authorities to identify:

  • the extent and severity of litter pollution in their functional area
  • the types and most likely sources and causes of litter
  • the changes in litter levels from location to location and over time
  • the location of litter black spots
  • the impact of new anti-litter measures

The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System is an environmental management tool that enables local authorities to tackle litter more effectively, by providing a framework for consistent and accurate self-assessment.