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Around one in seven of Northern Ireland’s streets and parks failed to meet the accepted standard for litter during 2016, Environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has said. This is despite Councils spending a total of £43,285,212 on cleansing during 2015-16; a rise of over 8% on efforts during the previous year.

Based on a survey of 1,100 sites across all of Northern Ireland, the survey shows that 15% of sites were described as having a “widespread distribution of litter with minor accumulations” or worse. The worst affected places were industrial estates, where more than one in three sample sites failed to meet the standard. By contrast, 99% of low density housing areas were rated clean or very clean, with 14% of those completely free of any litter.

Chris Allen, who manages the survey for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “It’s clear from the data that councils are struggling to keep pace with people’s irresponsible habits. They’re being forced to spend a totally unsustainable amount of ratepayers’ money – our money – on treating an entirely preventable problem. The average annual charge to every ratepayer in the country is around £58.”

One positive note within the survey was dog fouling, a perennial issue across Northern Ireland, but one which showed signs of improvement – sites with dog fouling dropped from an average of 11% over the previous 4 years to 6% during 2016. However, one in five sites in public parks still had dog fouling, and even 3% of children’s play areas. Amazingly, this is a significant improvement over the 2015 survey, when 10% of children’s play areas were observed to have dog fouling in them.

The survey also throws out some interesting specifics: Although a lack of a handy bin is often cited as a reason to drop litter, more than two out of three sample sites in city and town centres and other retails areas had at least one bin. Of all the retail sites that were considered unacceptably littered, 63% had at least one bin, with one site having four bins available – one approximately every 12 metres. In parks and play areas 85% of sites had a bin, including 81% of the sites that were unacceptably littered.

Councils are also investing in anti-litter education initiatives such as Live Here Love Here, a campaign supported by seven of the eleven councils, the Housing Executive and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, as well as businesses like Coca-Cola and Choice Housing. Many Councils also run local initiatives directly in schools and communities.