Over 90% of rural towns surveyed were deemed clean
The country has seen its best ever showing in a new litter survey.
The Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group says 80% of towns and cities are as clean as their European counterparts
The latest survey shows improvements in cleanliness across the country over the past year.
Over 90% of rural towns surveyed were deemed clean, while Dublin, Cork and Galway city centres all scored well in the ranking of 40 areas.
IBAL say a lack of community involvement sees certain disadvantaged urban areas continue to be affected by litter, despite improvements elsewhere.
Tullamore topped the rankings, followed by Dublin Airport Environs and Leixlip.
The survey found there was still a wide gap between towns and disadvantaged city areas, with the latter occupying the bottom six places in the ranking.
An Taisce assess litter levels in 40 towns and cities on behalf of IBAL.
While 85% of 32 tourist sites surveyed were clean - among them the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, Muckross House in Killarney, Guinness Storehouse and Newgrange - with the remainder exhibiting small amounts of litter.
Conor Horgan of IBAL says: "In the 16 years we have been conducting these surveys, this is possibly our best result.
"Across the board we have seen improvements.
"The news is all the more positive given the importance of how we present our country over the summer months, when we attract over 40% of our visitors.
"Also satisfying is the pristine state of the roads around Dublin Airport, which help form a first impression for many of these visitors."
The Dublin Airport environs were deemed a 'litter blackspot' when first surveyed five years ago.
Tullamore was praised by the inspectors for having "so many top-ranking sites" among them, Lloyd Town Park, O’Connor Tullamore Stadium and Patrick Street - while all the approach roads were also top ranking.
While no area was branded a 'litter blackspot', Galvone in Limerick city was again seriously littered, while Dublin's north inner-city and Cork city north were littered.
"We haven’t seen as much improvement in these social housing areas, where...social neglect is evident, and community groups and tidy towns committees are lacking compared to in mixed communities," Mr Horgan adds.
"Without these volunteer forces supporting the efforts of the council, these areas will simply not be clean on a sustained basis."
The survey also warns of increased instances of dumping in some areas.
IBAL says despite improvements in Dublin's north inner-city, the inspectors highlighted a 'dumping ground' near Sheriff Street Park, rubbish along the canal pathway at Guild Street and several sites suffering from "long-term abuse and neglect" rather than just casual litter.
In Galvone in Limerick, the rear of the industrial estate was a litter blackspot, and there were large accumulations of litter at the Irish Rail site near Kennedy Park, as well as at the recycle facility at Roxboro Shopping Centre.
The surveyors also expressed disappointment that littered sites which were previously highlighted have not been cleaned up.
"Dumping appears to be on the increase, and the more we ask people to pay for waste disposal the greater an issue it is likely to become.
"It may not be as widespread, but dumping is the new litter in many respects," Mr Horgan says.
IBAL says while it agrees with the 'polluter pays' principle behind the pay-by-weight collection system, it believes some of the monies raised should be ringfenced for councils to tackle the increased dumping that will result from people looking to evade the charges.