One in three popular Irish beaches are littered or heavily littered, according to the latest coastal litter study by business group Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL).
nationwide survey of 32 beaches commissioned by IBAL found that 40pc of the beaches and harbours surveyed are deemed to be “clean to European standards”, but one in three were found to be littered or heavily littered.
The most commonly discarded items were cigarette butts, sweet wrappers, disposable masks and plastic bottles, with coffee cups also featuring strongly. Alcohol cans were found at almost half of all sites.
“The majority of these litter item are plastics, whose impact on the marine environment is a source of global concern,” said Conor Horgan of IBAL.
“Cigarette butts, for example, may appear harmless, but they are in effect a single-use plastic which poses a real danger to our sea life.
“Research shows a single butt can contaminate up to 200 litres of water.
“We all need to realise that the implications of litter along our coasts go beyond tourism and recreation.
“It presents an existential threat to our planet and way of life.”
And it is not just litter that is clogging up beauty spots.
A scooter and a brick, along with food- and alcohol-related litter, were found dumped along the Tolka River at Annesley Bridge in Dublin.
Popular Dublin beaches including Killiney and Skerries were found to be moderately littered, as was Grand Canal Dock in Dublin city centre.
Ballybunion and Dingle beaches in Co Kerry were also moderately littered as well as Doolin pier and harbour in Co Clare, Killybegs, in Co Donegal, and Dungarvan beach in Co Waterford.
Cork Harbour, at Blackrock Castle and White Bay, in Co Cork, were both ‘heavily littered’ and among the worst areas surveyed.
However, a number of beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs that were monitored by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce, which conducted the study for IBAL in June and July, were found to be clean.
They include: Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow; Curracloe, Co Wexford; Lahinch, Co Clare; Clogherhead, Co Louth; Portmarnock, Co Dublin, and Strandhill, Co Sligo, as well as the seafront in Bray, Co Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire harbour in Co Dublin, and Kilmore Quay in Co Wexford.
But Bundoran beach in Co Donegal, Keel in Co Mayo, and Salthill and Dogs Bay in Co Galway were littered as well as Kinsale, Bantry, and Castletownbere harbours in Co Cork.
Mr Horgan said despite littering at many beaches, the situation has improved since the last survey two years ago.
“This is especially encouraging given the number of people who are staycationing and availing of our coastal amenities this year.
“There is evidence that many local authorities have upped their game in terms of additional bins, facilities and signage,” he said.
“However, at the bottom end of the table, we’ve seen many areas deteriorate from ‘moderately littered’ to ‘littered’.”