Jan 24, 2005

Litter in rural Ireland is a problem.

From Eircom.net - originally in the Irish Times.

"A study has recommended the introduction of deposits for drink cans and bottles after researchers found that people drop 3,500 pieces of litter each year on a kilometre stretch of a typical rural Irish road. The survey also recommends the introduction of voluntary litter patrols.

The study found that, on average, there were 1,148 pieces of litter per kilometre at any one time on a one kilometre stretch of rural roads, while evidence indicated that a small number of "litterbugs" were responsible for much of the waste, throwing it from their cars.

It found that drink bottles and cans were the greatest problem, accounting for 15 per cent of all litter.

Some 56 per cent of all litter was plastic, while paper and cardboard accounted for a quarter of all litter.

The data collected suggested that on a typical kilometre stretch of a small rural road, a person would expect to find 98 drinks bottles, 42 soft-drink cans, 101 bags, 69 cigarette and cigar butts, 166 wrappers and packaging items such as cigarette boxes, and eight paper cups.

It was estimated that up to 80 per cent of the litter was thrown out of cars by passing motorists. The plastic bag levy was found by the study to be particularly effective, with only a tiny proportion of such bags discovered in the survey.

The study was carried out by Prof Nick Gray, an environmental scientist at TCD, and his research assistant, Ms Rebecca Gray, who surveyed 24 randomly selected sites on minor roads in rural Co Wicklow.

The sites were cleared of litter, all of which was counted. Unlike urban areas, where litter can be highly visible, the study found that much of the litter was hidden in the verges by grass or weeds and was less obvious to passing traffic.

The survey figures suggested there was an average of 1,148 litter items per kilometre of rural road.

People dropped litter at a rate of 3,571 items per kilometre per year, the survey found.

The study also estimated that people were littering at a rate of 69 items a week on an average Irish road.

Prof Gray said the study identified "a particular pattern of littering" at many of the sites, with the same items, such as particular cigarette brands, being dropped. This suggested individual litterbugs were responsible for much of that littering.

The discovery of so many plastic bottles, many of them still half-full, suggested that a deposit system was needed, according to Prof Gray.

"I think the trouble is that the product has such a low value, people can't even be bothered taking it home with them," he said.

The deposit would also encourage local groups to form litter patrols as it provided a financial incentive.

His study suggests that voluntary litter patrols by local communities are the only major way of tackling litter, but bin charges were preventing such civic initiatives. "I think it very much leads to community pressure. It's usually kids who take part in this, and if they go home and say, 'I was picking up litter all day', you will often find Dad thinking, 'I probably dropped it there'.""

No comments: