Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council spent a total of £2,235,271 on cleaning roads, streets and open spaces during 2015/16 - a reduction of almost 10 per cent on spending the previous year.
At a time when most other councils are having to spend more on street cleansing, the local authority has also seen a fall of almost two thirds in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering - just 12 in 2015/16.
The figures, which were gathered by environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful from council financial statements and records of enforcement, show how hard councils have to work to hold back a tide of unsightly and harmful litter.
Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said of the figures: “Council staff work day and night to keep our streets clean but we do more and more each year just to stand still.
“If Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council was able to further bring down the £2,235,271 cost of cleaning up litter, think of how many more parks, leisure facilities and services the council would be able to provide to the public. Tackling the cost of litter is not just good for the environment, society, but also public services.
“This cost is why most councils have now come together, with others, to deliver Live Here Love Here. This is building community pride and starting work on the real solution, which is to prevent litter being dropped in the first place.”
Street cleansing is paid for by councils from their rates, with the average annual charge to every ratepayer in the country around £58.
The total raised by fixed penalties in Lisburn and Castlereagh last year, to be set against the cost of cleansing, was just £750.
Dr Humphreys continued: “In a fair society the polluter would pay for the clean-up, but at this stage the ratepayers of Lisburn and Castlereagh are footing the bill for other people’s carelessness.” Many councils are also investing in anti-litter education initiatives such as Live Here Love Here, a media campaign supported by seven of the 11 councils (not Lisburn and Castlereagh), the Housing Executive and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, as well as businesses like Coca-Cola and Choice Housing. A number of councils also run local initiatives directly in schools and communities.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is currently collating results of 1,100 surveys across the country to see if the additional money spent by many councils is having the desired effect and reducing the amount of litter on streets and in parks.