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Marine Litter

"Marine Litter currently poses a dire, vast and growing threat to the marine and coastal Environment"

Seal with plastic stuck in mouth

The United Nations Environment Programme

Since 2012 Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful have run a programme collecting information about marine litter washing up on ten beaches around Northern Ireland. With four surveys carried out each year, the data collected provides contributes to the Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy. The aim of this Strategy is to help realise the vision of “clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas”.

Over the 56km of beach surveyed under the programme, there have been an average of 528 items of litter per 100m. Below you can see a breakdown of all of the data collected by the survey. This interactive section offers you some tools to look closely at the data, to see it in different ways, and even to download all of the data if you want to do your own analysis. These tools were developed with the help of Detail Data, a Big Lottery funded partnership between NICVA and TheDetail.tv.

You can make this section larger and the data easier to read by clicking on "full screen" in the bottom right corner.

You can download the 2016 Marine Litter report (it's a big file and may take a while).

If you prefer you can download the individual spreads as Powerpoint slides - you are free to use them for your own purpose so long as you attribute them to Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

Ardglass before and after cleaning

A huge positive of this programme is the removal of all the litter observed by volunteers. As we are learning from this work, litter can travel quite a distance, and the majority of what we find is plastic bottles, cans and other examples of a 'throw-away consumer' lifestyle so could have come from anywhere. Ardglass before and after cleaning.

Marine litter isn't just a local problem. Plastic bottles and other buoyant litter can be pushed by wind and tides far from were it enters the sea, which in turn could be far from where it was dropped by an inconsiderate person. There are many ways marine litter enters the sea, and there are many ways it impact the life in the sea, or impacts humans when it gets washed ashore again.

Marine Litter Sources and Impacts infographic