No butts about it

No butts about it — main litter culprits are smokers

By Paul Melia
Monday May 31 2010

THERE are now no more butts about it: smokers are the main cause of litter in our towns and cities.

Almost half of all litter is made up of cigarette ends, and more than 90pc of the country is affected by litter to varying degrees, according to a government report.

The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System study published today says that while Ireland is becoming cleaner, very little of the country is classed as “litter free”.

The condition of roads and rural areas has forced Environment Minister John Gormley to establish a group with responsibility for cleaning up these areas.

The group will survey areas with litter problems and set out clear areas of responsibility to various public authorities. A separate survey had found that entry routes into our towns and cities most visited by tourists were heavily littered.

The minister said he was establishing the group to examine the issue.

“Notwithstanding the overall improvements in recent years in the litter situation, I have been concerned for some time at the apparent growth in both roadside and rural litter,” he said.

“I am anxious that we deal with this growing problem before it gets out of hand. What is required here is a co-ordinated response to this problem and I am convinced that the action group is the best approach.” The system measures three key indicators of the litter problem, including the extent, main causes, and main constituents of litter pollution.

It has found that litter outside fast-food outlets, construction sites and leisure centres had decreased, with an overall improvement countrywide. It also found:

  • There had been an increase in litter-free areas from 6.6pc in 2008 to 6.8pc in 2009.
  • Some 63pc of all areas surveyed were slightly littered — an increase on 2008 levels.
  • Moderately and significantly polluted areas had decreased by 0.9pc and 0.1pc to 25.7pc and 3.7pc respectively.
  • There was a decrease in grossly polluted areas from 0.5pc in 2008 to 0.3pc.


Cigarettes are the biggest offender, accounting for 45.4pc of all litter, followed by food (29.2pc), packaging (12pc), and sweet wrappers (6.9pc).

Passing pedestrians cause most of the problems, followed by motorists, retail outlets and gathering points.

“The report shows that the litter situation continues to improve across the country with over 70pc of areas surveyed demonstrating a high level of cleanliness,” Mr Gormley said. “This compares to just 48pc of areas surveyed in 2002.”

The Department of the Environment has announced an additional €1.5m to tackle litter over the next three years, particularly at key tourist locations during the peak summer season.

– Paul Melia



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