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General improvement undermined by failings in other areas

Northern Ireland was a cleaner place to live last year, a report funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has found.

The Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report, produced by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, surveyed sites across towns, rural roads and recreational areas for litter and other forms of pollution, and rated Northern Ireland’s overall environmental quality at 72% in 2022, a 6% uptick on the previous year’s result.

However, while more parts of the country enjoyed better levels of cleanliness than before, the number of sites that failed to pass acceptable standards saw a slight increase on the previous year, rising from 15% to 16%.

Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:

“It would be fair to characterise the results of our most recent Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report as a mixed picture. It is, of course, positive that we have published our best overall performance since 2017, but it is also clear that we have taken some backwards steps.

“The big picture, however, is that one out of six places that we surveyed did not achieve the basic minimum conditions of a healthy environment that is a fundamental human right. That number is still far too high, and should act as a reminder that a lot more work lies ahead.”

Dave Foster, Director of DAERA’s Natural Environment Policy Division commented; “In Northern Ireland we are very fortunate to have some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world and it is encouraging this report shows an improvement in our overall environmental quality. However, as highlighted in this report, there is always room for further progress especially in regards to cigarette and takeaway litter. It is important we realise we all have an ongoing responsibility to protect and care for our environment and that we need to work towards achieving a clean, healthy space for everyone.”

Other areas of concern identified by the report include a spike in the presence of cigarette litter across the land from 65% to 78%. Takeaway litter also soared in prevalence by 117%, while dog fouling continued its descent in the opposite direction, falling from 6% to 2%.

As with other years, the publication made local-council data available for street-cleansing costs and the number of fixed penalty notices (FPNs) issued. There was an average of 1,203 littering and 34 dog-fouling fines handed out across local-government areas, with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council serving the highest number of FPNs on both counts. The annual clean-up bill was estimated at £30,961,701, working out at £41.57 per ratepayer.

Surveys for the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report were completed between July to September 2022.

Outside of inspecting transects for litter, all surveys conducted assessments to determine levels of graffiti, staining, detritus and flyposting. Each site was assigned a grade ranging from A to D and a cleanliness score that was used to calculate the overall environmental-quality percentage for Northern Ireland.

To read the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report, visit www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org/cleaner-neighbourhoods-report.