The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a rise in litter across the country, a new survey has revealed.

The first nationwide study into rubbish on our streets since the coronavirus crisis showed a dramatic fall in the number of towns and cities deemed to be "clean" - now at its lowest level since 2007.

The survey, by the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group, found Personal Protective Equipment litter to be widespread and there was also an increase in the prevalence of cans and glass bottles.

Forty towns and cities were inspected by An Taisce as part of the survey but only a handful improved on last year's findings.

Just 23 towns were deemed to be "clean", a fall of over 20% on last year. 

While no area was branded a "litter blackspot", north inner city Dublin was once again seriously littered, as was Galvone in Limerick city, which fell back from last year.

By contrast, Dublin's Ballymun was among the few areas to improve on 2019, with its Main Street praised as "very well presented, with a virtual absence of litter throughout".

"The rise in litter levels this year is across the board," said IBAL's Conor Horgan.

"The Covid crisis has seen more dumping, more outdoor socialising, especially drinking, and PPE litter, but less cleaning by local authorities and less activity by volunteers like Tidy Towns.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

"It is a perfect storm, in many ways, which has brought us to the worst position we’ve been in in over 10 years."

PPE litter was prevalent across the country, with masks five times as common as gloves.

"Understandably, people are reluctant to pick up these items for fear of contracting Covid, so they tend to stay on the ground. We need to see a rapid rise in the use of reusable masks," said Mr Horgan.

Of 61 sites described as either heavily littered or blackspots in 2019, fewer than 40% were clean in this latest survey, now in its 18th year. 

Kilkenny was deemed Ireland's cleanest city, having beaten European norms, followed by Athlone, Killarney, Portlaoise and Maynooth.