Debbie Nesbitt is on the national independent adjudication panel for Ireland’s TidyTowns Competition. She explains the impact it’s had… and with ideas and messages that resonate with CIWM’s own Clean Britain scheme, there is much that can be learned, by entrants and organisers alike!
The “Supervalu” TidyTowns Competition is an annual competition organised by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in Ireland. As the name suggests the competition is concerned with how a local community presents and cares for their local environs and involves participating villages, towns or large urban centres.
However, the beauty of the TidyTowns competition is that the competition embraces much more than just tidiness. Litter control and management, promotion of local heritage, presentation of the local built environment, community interaction and involvement, wildlife and biodiversity and sustainable waste and resource management are all important strands of the competition. These are themes, which the participating communities approach in their own unique and localised ways.
At the core of each TidyTown Group is its local volunteers and committee. The committee is spearheaded by a number of local volunteers and enthusiasts all participating in the TidyTowns competition and volunteering within their local area for varying reasons, some business and some personal.
Dealing With Changes In Ireland
The last decade has seen significant changes in how waste is managed in Ireland. The regulatory regime imposed on the waste industry during this period has encouraged Ireland to move from a position of almost total reliance on landfill for managing waste to a significant recovery of recyclable materials. It was in 2006 that a ‘waste’ theme was added to the competition to further reiterate the Department’s ‘Race against Waste’ awareness raising campaign and to encourage communities to move further up the waste management hierarchy in terms of managing their household waste. Since 2006 waste and environmental related elements of the TidyTowns competition have progressed in line with evolving European policy and legislation. The ‘waste’ category has now evolved to become the ‘Sustainable Waste and Resource Management’ category in support of the National Waste Prevention Programme.
Since the introduction of the Sustainable Waste and Resource Management Category, communities are working together to educate each other, raise awareness and share resource efficiency ideas. Many in the community had never heard of the waste hierarchy until the competition, others considered recycling to be waste prevention and did not think in a circular fashion.
Communities entering are awarded points for the work they do in raising awareness and helping to change attitudes and behaviours of local people at a local level. The keyword is ‘community’. Action on waste prevention and sustainable resource management comes from the grass-roots, action is at a local level to enhance and promote a more sustainable village or town.
In 2014, 849 towns and villages entered the competition. Of these entrants, it is estimated that 95% included projects related to sustainable waste and resource management undertaken in a voluntary capacity. Last year’s winning entrant, Kilkenny, undertook 17 sustainable waste and resource management projects in the space of a year comprising of the promotion of sustainable travel initiatives, greener cleaning in the home and use of homemade cleaning remedies, up-cycling furniture in association with local mental health services.
If there is one thing that all TownTowns entrants have in common, it is their ‘no-nonsense’ attitude towards litter and litter management in their communities. To date, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has not quantified the TidyTowns impact on littering, and in particular, savings in relation to the voluntary clean-ups, but in financial terms those administering the programme believe it would be substantial.
Projects undertaken by the TidyTowns Groups are cross community and cross-generational. Community spirit is strong amongst TidyTowns communities. Local businesses and third sector organisations lend their support to TidyTowns committees and initiatives include organised litter picks, residents of businesses adopting a stretch of road to maintain, TidyTowns committees liaising with local businesses and retail outlets to encourage more sustainable business practices. Meeting up regularly with other TidyTowns entrants and sharing stories and project ideas helps foster community pride and inspires others to take local action in their own communities.
Monetary prizes are awarded to the best under many different categories. The overall winner is “Ireland’s Tidiest Town”, a very coveted title! As such, the TidyTowns initiative it is very much a development programme as much as a competition.
For more information on the TidyTowns Initiative click here
Debbie is a Senior Consultant with RPS, a Chartered Waste Manager and is on the national independent adjudication panel for the TidyTowns competition.