CRAIGAVON and Belfast Council issue 80 percent of all fines for littering in Northern Ireland.
The figures were issued as Environment Minister Alex Attwood vows to get tough on litter louts.
Mr Attwood was speaking after revealing 3,268 fixed penalty notices were issued for littering during 2011/12.
The figures, released in an Assembly question, reveal huge disparities in the number of fines issued by councils.
Around 80 per cent were issued by two councils — Craigavon (1,046) and Belfast (1,534).
By contrast, Dungannon council issued just one, while Ballymoney, Limavady and North Down handed out four each.
Craigavon Borough Council says that its high ranking in the fight against littering is down to the hard work of their Environmental Wardens, Council’s zero tolerance policy and the increasing support from the residents within the Borough.
“The environmental wardens work tirelessly to detect incidents of littering, and residents are proactively using our online reporting facility to report offenders, helping us enforce our zero tolerance policy. People want to live in a clean and tidy environment and are willing to do something positive to achieve it,” said Lorraine Crawford, director of environmental services.
The figures also showed that Craigavon is one of the most proactive councils in terms of taking offenders to court for failing to reply to litter notices, failing to pay fixed penalty fines and contesting the evidence provided.
“Effective environmental enforcement is a key element in the approach to tackling litter in Craigavon. The environmental wardens work hard to target particular litter hotspots, which has a positive impact on increasing the environmental quality in those areas.
“A clean and tidy environment can lead to an improved quality of life. The residents of the borough want to see the streets litter free and with their support we are using the legislation available to us to help tackle the problem,” the director of environmental services said.
Mr Attwood described the figures as “wildly different” — and he wants councils to explain why.
“I’d like them to explain why the figures are as they are,” he told a national newspaper.
“I’ve requested responses by November 5 and I want them to say why there is such a wild differential between one and the other.”
He said his letter stated the importance of a litter strategy.
Alex Attwood said he wanted to remind authorities of the importance of developing and enforcing a strategy to tackle our growing waste problem. It has emerged that some councils are still failing to clamp down on offenders — despite the cost of clean-ups soaring to £40m a year.
It comes just days after a survey revealed the filthy state of some Northern Ireland’s streets.
Tidy NI found over one in 10 streets still fails to meet the government standard for litter.
The annual cost of cleaning up runs to £40m — and Mr Attwood said it was important the message got through to offenders.
“An awful lot of money is being spent clearing the place up,” he added. “It seems reasonable that, if we are spending so much money, we are taking action against those who are littering our streets and countryside.”
Tidy NI chief executive Ian Humphreys welcomed the minister’s request to councils.
“We would back any move which leads to stronger enforcement action,” he said.
Mr Humphreys said education, positive campaigns and effective monitoring were also key.
“We need stronger action before we will beat the litter issue,” he added. “The fining is mainly for the 20 per cent of people who ignore all the other messages.”
Residents can report incidents of littering on the Council’s online reporting facility at www.craigavon.gov.uk/environment/waste-services/816-environmental-crime-report.html.