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Mixed results for Mayo beaches in litter survey

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Council urged to staff beaches to keep them clean and pristine

Anton McNulty

AN ACHILL councillor has called on Mayo County Council to start preparing now for the 2022 season. In particular, he wants to see the council employ staff to ensure the county’s beaches are kept ‘in pristine condition’.
Cllr Paul McNamara made the comments during a week that saw Keel beach on Achill Island  deemed littered, with Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) citing poor refuse facilities at the Blue Flag beach.
A coastal survey compiled IBAL found Keel beach to be ‘littered’, while Old Head in Louisburgh was found to be ‘Clean to European norms’.
Keel and Old Head beaches were the two coastal areas in Mayo that were surveyed. Another 32 coastal areas around the country were also examined. Beaches, harbours, rivers and their immediate environs were monitored on behalf of IBAL by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce in June and July.
The report for Keel stated that on first impression, the area seemed not too bad with regard to litter. However, closer inspection revealed significant levels of rubbish. The report was also critical of uncovered bins at the beauty spot.
“As well as a wide variety of food-related items, there were also some car tyres, battery and dead seagull [sic]; the style of litter bins were such that they were not covered (litter could easily blow out with a gust of wind or be picked at by birds); there didn’t appear to be any bins at the overflowing parking area to the left of the access road; the area surrounding the various businesses were clean and tidy.”

‘No different from a restaurant’
Earlier this summer, Cllr McNamara criticised the lack of facilities for refuse and its collection at the beach in Keel. He was informed by Council management that there were delays in procuring new bins. New bins have since been installed at the beach, and at other locations on the island.
Cllr McNamara complimented the local people who clean the beaches throughout the winter to ensure it retains its Blue Flag status. However, he asserted that extra staff should be deployed during the busy summer months.
“We have to employ extra staff to patrol our beaches … There is no doubt about it that when you have hundreds of people at our beaches you will have litter and papers thrown around.
“It is no different from a restaurant which seats a couple of hundred people; it has to be cleaned for the next function. That is the way we have to clean our beaches. They have to be kept in a pristine condition because they have become an important part of our infrastructure,” he said.
Cllr McNamara said that Covid has changed society, with more people appreciating nature and the outdoors, and that beaches are now used all year round. He called for facilities to be in place on Blue Flag beaches from the Easter holidays onwards, and for Mayo County Council to start proactively planning ahead.
“I think it is important we start planning ahead for 2022 and we don’t leave it until next May again to start getting ready for the summer season. Put the wheels in motion in September for 2022 and we’ll meet full standard Blue Flag criteria on our beaches,” he said.

Old Head shines
There was better news regarding litter on Old Head beach, which was classified as ‘Clean to European Norms’ – the highest classification in the study.
The IBAL report read: “The overall impression with regard to litter at Old Head was a good one, with a virtual absence of litter throughout.
“There was a ‘Leave nothing behind, only your footprints in the sand’ sign to discourage littering on the beach, and a ‘2 Minute Beach Clean’ board to encourage a quick clean-up.
“The notice boards/signage were in good order and the immediate hinterland was well presented and maintained. There was very little litter throughout the area surveyed.

3011 MPU