Minister of State Smyth announces the publication of National Litter Pollution Monitoring System results

  • Results highlight the need to build on the ongoing work – to tackle litter pollution right across Ireland
  • Cigarettes continue to be the biggest litter scourge
  • Chewing gum litter is vastly reduced

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, with responsibility for the Circular Economy and Communications, Ossian Smyth, has announced the publication of the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System (NLPMS) results for 2021, which show that we must keep the pressure on for a cleaner and litter-free Ireland.

The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System is an environmental management tool that enables Local Authorities to tackle litter more effectively, by providing a framework for consistent and accurate self-assessment. The results provide important statistical data on the extent, causes and make-up of litter in Ireland. This, in turn, means that Local Authorities can manage litter pollution in a systematic and structured way.

The National Litter Pollution Monitoring System results for 2021 reveal that:

  • the percentage of unpolluted (LPI 1) and slightly polluted (LPI 2) areas combined has decreased slightly (by 0.5%) from 2020 to 2021, showing a slight overall increase in national litter pollution from 2020 to 2021
  • grossly polluted areas (LPI 5) have decreased from 0.5% in 2020 to 0.3% in 2021

The main constituent elements of litter pollution nationwide in 2021 were:

  • cigarette-related litter (48.4%)
  • packaging items (20.4%)
  • food-related litter (11.2%)
  • sweet-related litter (8.7%)

The main causative factors of litter pollution nationally were identified as follows:

  • passing pedestrians (40.9%)
  • passing motorists (22.4%)
  • retail outlets (8.3%)
  • gathering points (6.2%)
  • schools / school children (4.6%)

In announcing the results for 2021, Minister of State Smyth acknowledged the important role played by both Local Authorities and communities in tackling Ireland’s litter challenges. The Minister said:

“I am pleased to see a decrease in areas classified as grossly polluted. However, there has also been a slight decrease in the number of unpolluted and slightly polluted areas. This reminds us all of the need to build on the work we’re doing – in tackling litter pollution. The results published today highlight areas that pose a challenge to litter prevention in Ireland. Cigarette-related litter continues to be the largest single category of litter pollution in the locations surveyed, at 48.4%. I am determined to tackle this issue. My officials, in conjunction with industry, are examining how best way to achieve this.

“It’s encouraging to see that chewing gum litter has continued to fall – from a high of 30.8% in 2008 to 9.1% in 2021. Discussions were recently concluded to renew the Negotiated Agreement between the department and the chewing gum industry, to address the problem of chewing gum litter for the period 2022-2024. These results show that measures adopted under the agreements have been effective.

“In addition, in 2021 the department provided an extra €5 million to Local Authorities for litter infrastructure and awareness campaigns – to help in managing litter associated with the past summer of increased outdoor dining and staycations, due to the impact of COVID-19. It is encouraging to see that litter levels haven’t increased.

“There are also measures in the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy that, when introduced, will have a significant impact on litter prevention efforts – such as a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles and aluminium cans and a levy on disposable coffee cups.”

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications continues to promote and support a number of environmental awareness-raising programmes. These include the Green Schools Programme, aimed at educating young people, and the Anti-Litter, Anti-Graffiti Grants Schemes for local communities (operated by Local Authorities). In addition, the department supports work undertaken by local groups – through sponsorship of An Taisce’s National Spring Clean.

The 2021 National Litter Pollution Monitoring System results are now available in full on and on the department’s website.