Local councils are to be given more powers to tackle the litter problem, it’s been revealed.
The North’s Environment Minister Alex Attwood says the new powers will come into effect from next April.
He was responding to a survey by Tidy NI which concluded that streets across the North are dirtier now than at any time in the last four years.
Tidy NI surveyed more than 500 sites across the North for the Department of the Environment.
Only 2% of areas had no litter, and 14% failed to reach an acceptable standard - that’s an increase of 8% from 2009.
Tidy NI said more litter was observed overall and the figures showed the highest percentage of areas failing to meet government standards for litter since 2006.
Almost all types of litter were more common in the areas surveyed, which included retail, industrial, housing and recreational areas.
Cigarettes and chewing gum were almost “ever-present” in retail areas.
Drinks litter - cans, bottles and cartons - was found on nearly nine out of 10 rural roads, and was more common across all land uses than chewing gum.
Meanwhile, the amount of dog fouling observed increased five-fold and was found in over a quarter of recreational areas.
Alex Attwood says local authorities across the North are spending tens of thousands of pounds every day cleaning streets.
“If our streets aren’t clean enough, it is not helpful to inward investment, tourism or the quality of life that we lead and it costs us a lot of money,” he said.
“What the Assembly has done is given more powers to councils and these powers will be live by April 2012 whereby councils will be able to spot fine people higher fines and I will give the councils greater powers to make sure that people clean up the streets.”
Mr Attwood said people in Northern Ireland were not taking the issue of littering “seriously enough”.
“The appearance of our streets, their cleanliness or otherwise is in many ways the first impression that people have when they come to NI,” he said.