Repetitive lockdowns and outdoor socializing is a huge contributing factor to the increased dirt and litter on the streets of Dublin. As specialist stone cleaners PMAC have been assisting Dublin City Council with their Public Realm Cleaning efforts for almost 20 years. We periodically remove gum and graffiti for DCC and also give various streets and villages a thorough wash and clean once or twice a year.
Recently however with more people congregating, eating, drinking and everything else that goes along with that our efforts have had to be vastly increased to help keep our city clean and safe. Periodic gum removal in the City Centre is no longer adequate to keeping our footpaths clean and more frequent deep blasts of cleaning are required.
Challenges faced by our Night Crews
I spent an evening with my colleagues from the Gum Crew to see at first hand the challenges they face on a nightly basis. Their day starts at 7pm working through until 4am from Monday to Thursday. We met at Merchants Quay, one of the dirtiest and most neglected parts of the city with a serious problem with Drug Addiction and Homelessness. Our lads come in contact on a nightly basis with the increasingly lesser off people in our society. In fact the extent of Dublin’s poverty has become much more visible on the streets since everyone else was forced to abandon the city. The Drug Users & Homeless don’t interfere with our crew, in fact they jumped when they heard the machinery starting up. “They don’t interfere with us and we respect and work around them” say’s Kevin our Night time Supervisor. “Yes, the streets are full of urine and excrement like never before, what do you expect when these people are not welcome to use Public Toilets?’
A lack of Civic Pride starting at a very young age
I asked Kevin why there seems to be such a lack of Civic Pride in our City? “It certainly seems to be starting at a young age. A new major phenomenon for us now is gangs of youths going around on their bikes picking up bags of rubbish and throwing them at us or any passers by. We may have just spent all night cleaning Henry St and suddenly the place is littered in rubbish again. It is extremely frustrating. Another issue on Grafton Street is the hordes of people who suddenly descend on the place once St. Stephen’s Green is closed. You’ve just spent a few hours cleaning the paving and suddenly out of nowhere 1,000’s appear carrying drink and food. All work has to stop until the way is cleared and then start up again.
Food and Drink is the major contributing factor to our dirty streets
A major cause of staining on our streets is discarded food. Outdoor dining means everyone is eating and drinking on the streets, coffee, teas, grease and oil all contribute to our dirty foot paths. Leftovers and unwanted food is often just flung on the streets. This is particularly bad around the GPO and Henry Street. Grease seeps into the stone causing major staining.
Major black spots in the City for litter and dirt are Wolfe Tone Square and Portobello. Anywhere where the new norm is for people to congregate outdoors. Our crew are now called upon to carry out deep cleans on a regular basis to these areas. Urine and excrement are a major factor and being actively worked on by DCC with the introduction of Port A Loos all over the City. It’s almost like cleaning up after a festival on a nightly basis.
While washing the streets our crew also clean down all the bins, plinth walls and railings. Graffiti is systematically removed along our route. Stickers are another unsightly blight on our public realm. Left on lampposts, bridges, railings and street furniture, the application of chemical is the only way to remove.
Clean streets can’t happen without some disruption to passers by
Our crew take their break between 11 and 12 during what they call the Bus Rush. Pedestrians are an obvious impediment to our work. Lockdown was a dream for our crew, working on empty streets they got through their work in half the time. We always need to have a constant extra man, a spotter, to ensure the safety of all passers by. All works are stopped to allow them to pass by.
It’s fantastic to see all the improvements made by DCC to improve the safety of the growing number of cyclists. It does however throw up further challenges for our crew. Our vans are fully equipped with super heated machines connected to hoses. This is essential for producing steam for non-aggressive cleaning. And yes, we often have to park up on footpaths in order to carry out our work in a safe manner. The erection of bollards just make this more challenging. This is why this work is carried out during the night to cause minimal disruption.
Unfortunately no one can wave a magic wand and resolve all the problems of our dirty streets. Out door dining and congregations are here to stay and give vibrancy and life to our beautiful city. Our crew will continue to assist DCC with cleaning up the mess that’s left behind and do it with good humour and pride. Our crews have the greatest respect for all citizens they meet on a nightly business and will walk away from trouble and come back to finish their job when the coast is clear.
They have a 100% Safety record which is exemplary over a 20 year period.
I just feel their tends to be a huge lack of civic pride in our environment compared to other European Cities. It is shocking to see how a small minority can cause such devastation in our beautiful city. We’ll continue to clean up on a nightly basis. Our crew are all proud Dubs and love to stand back and admire their work. These regular deep cleans help greatly with daily maintenance. We hope you can see an improvement to our streetscapes the next time you’re taking a stroll in town. And remember to please use the bins provided!