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Eco-Schools are delighted that Sam Patterson has achieved double success with his first place in the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) National and the #yrestayshome competition. Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) is an award-winning programme coordinated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The programme empowers young people to take an educated stand on environmental issues they feel strongly about and gives them a platform to articulate these issues through the media of writing, photography or video.

The 14-year-old Belfast resident impressed judges with his Litter Less Campaign article ‘The Natural Respirator’ which looked at our connection to nature and how people can damage it through lack of consideration of our environment.

Since he was a child, Sam has been a keen enthusiast for our environment which inspired him to take part in the YRE competition. At age seven, he was diagnosed with dyslexia, then at age nine he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. This competition has allowed Sam to demonstrate his creativity and his passion for our nature. He is one of the growing number of younger environmental activists who are leading the way in raising the issues around the climate emergency and how as a people we need to be part of the solution.

Part of the Litter Less Campaign, the longest running school anti-litter campaign is funded by Mars Wrigley Foundation, run in Northern Ireland through the Eco-Schools programme.

Speaking about this achievement the Eco-Schools Project Officer, Dr. Francesca Di Palo said;

“We are delighted for Sam and his incredible double achievement. At such a young age he is demonstrating that everyone can play an important part in raising the issue of how we look after our environment. Sam has wowed all of us with his creativity and passion. On behalf of Eco-Schools, I want to congratulate him on this achievement and very much look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.”

Speaking about his experience of YRE, Sam Patterson said;

“I believed that the competition would be a good opportunity to learn about plastic pollution and develop my writing skills. In my mind success was highly unlikely but the enjoyment of participation was a great incentive in itself.”

For further information please contact:

Dr Francesca Di Palo (Eco-Schools Project Officer)

E: Francesca.DiPalo@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

In 2019, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful marine litter surveyors recorded an average of 508 pieces of litter per 100 meters of beach. This equates to an estimated 3.3 million items of litter on our coastline at any one time.

Plastic, not surprisingly makes up over 78% of the waste on Northern Ireland’s beaches, including many ‘single use’ items such as drinks bottles, food wrappers and broken pieces of plastic. In fact, such is the extent of the ‘plastic problem’ that 6 of the top 10 most common littered items on NI beaches were found to be derived from single-use plastics.

There were also many short pieces of string and rope, which may have originated from fishing activity.

One of the key indicators of the abundance, composition and trends of litter in the marine environment is the amount on beaches. The surveys of beach litter are carried out 4 times a year by trained volunteers across 11 ‘reference’ beaches around Northern Ireland’s coast. The surveys are funded by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and all the data collected feeds into the OSPAR Commission database, helping with decision-making around marine litter in the North East Atlantic from Iceland to Portugal. OSPAR monitors litter on 100m stretches at over 70 beaches in the North-East Atlantic following common monitoring guidelines. The data is accessible to anyone and it is collected in the same way at every reference beach each year.

Commenting on the 2019 Report, Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA - said;

“I welcome publication of the Marine Litter Report 2019 and acknowledge the excellent work that Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful do in partnership with my Department.

“This year’s report highlights the steady progress being made in tackling marine litter in Northern Ireland, leading to a cleaner, greener place to live. The figures reveal the stark reality of litter on our beaches, with over 22,000 pieces of litter collected across 11 beaches, with 78% of this made from single use plastic. It is a reminder of our continued fight against plastic pollution and its devastating consequences.

“We all want to see changes where we live and see a continuing reduction in the number of pieces of litter appearing in our waters and along our coastline. With summer upon us and an ease on coronavirus restrictions many of us may choose to holiday at home. However, I would remind people of the need to ‘leave no trace’, to take all their litter home with them and recycle it where they can. By adjusting our behaviours and acting responsibly we can all play our part in further driving down marine litter and making a day at the beach enjoyable for everyone, whilst also protecting our marine wildlife.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers who give up their time to carry out these surveys throughout the year, their invaluable work contributes to the ongoing success of the Marine Litter Report and the importance of looking after our own local beaches.”

Every reference beach is cleaned within two weeks of the survey by a range of volunteers from; families and local groups to schools and businesses. In 2019 nearly 600 volunteers got involved to help clean up the beaches, collecting over 540 bags of litter from the 11 reference beaches alone.

Jamie Miller, Local Environmental Quality Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful stated, “Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is grateful to all those who dedicate their valuable time to survey, record and remove litter from beaches in Northern Ireland. As the results of their invaluable work shows, the vast majority of litter on our beaches comes from single use plastics. Removing these items from beaches is a small step towards tackling a very large problem in our seas, which we are only just beginning to understand. We all have a role to play in tackling this hugely concerning environmental issue and can start by making small positive changes to our behaviours, such as avoiding single use plastic where possible, and always putting our rubbish in a bin.”

Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic people are taking extra steps to protect themselves. It is important that the public recognises that using Personal Protective Equipment comes with the responsibility of not just using it properly but also disposing of it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment and other members of the public. These items once used, need to be put in the appropriate bin.

You can read the full report at www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org/marinelitter

Calling all Would Be “Grow your owners”

David McCann   Mon 06 Jul 2020

Environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is today launching a new project which has been funded by the National Lottery Community Fund as a response to Covid-19.

The Food For Thought project is a combination of ‘Grow your own’ and ‘Eat your own’ to help build resilience within communities, families and individuals.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has been a pioneer of a cleaner, greener, more sustainable Northern Ireland for the last 20 years and enabling people to grow even a very small amount of food at home completely fits with that ethos.

The project will be delivered by Live Here Love Here in collaboration with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Belfast Food Network (BFN). TCV will distribute 550 growing packs suitable for indoor and outdoor spaces, large and small. These packs will contain seeds of salad leaves, vegetables or herbs which are suitable to sow from end July onwards, bags of peat free compost, gardening gloves, pots and a fork and trowel set. There are also some apple trees for those with suitable space to plant them.

The project will also include access to on-line webinars and video content; project partners Belfast Food Network will be creating a series of videos and recipes showing simple ways to use fabulous fresh produce. There will also be hints and tips from chefs and food producers throughout the province.

Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said “There are so many reasons to grow even a small amount of food. The benefits for mental and physical health are well documented, but particularly at this time when perhaps we all have feelings of loneliness and insecurity it can be a great connector to a wider community. If you combine that with the health benefits of eating something so fresh, with zero food miles it also has the power to surprise our taste buds; this in turn leads to food empathy, an appreciation of the effort that goes into producing real food.”

Helen Tomb, Operations Leader at The Conservation Volunteers said “The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the need to connect people with nature and the food supply chain. The Food for Thought project provides a fantastic opportunity for individuals and families to grow together and look forward to enjoying a healthy harvest. The kits provide all the basics to help even the most novice of gardeners get started and online support will help us grow as a community.’

Kerry Melville, Project Co-ordinator of Belfast Food Network, part of Sustainable Food Cities network commented “We're delighted to be a part of the Food for Thought project, we'll be encouraging people to grow their own and make delicious meals for family and friends using fresh, local, seasonal produce".

Jilly Dougan, project officer for Food For Thought said “There’s no better way to start interacting with the environment than getting up close and personal with growing food! We want applications from community groups, families and individuals of all ages from across Northern Ireland. The vision is to create a whole community of growers and eaters who support each other in a truly sustainable way. We can’t wait to see the pictures and hear about everyone’s adventures along the way”.

To find out more about the Food For Thought project and apply for a growing pack please visit www.liveherelovehere.org/foodforthought or contact jilly.dougan@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org to get in touch.

Applications open today and will close on Monday 20th July at 12pm (noon)

A new report produced by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, highlights the need to bank the gains in the fight against litter.

The Cleaner Neighbourhoods report, which analyses the findings of the 2019 Northern Ireland Litter Survey, provides some encouraging news, showing there were improvements in the levels of litter and dog fouling across Northern Ireland.

The report, which details the results from the 2019 survey period, states that 86% of the streets and public spaces surveyed were deemed to meet an acceptable standard for cleanliness, an improvement on the previous year's results. The levels of dog fouling across Northern Ireland were also found to have declined; in 2019 only 6% of the 1,100 streets, roads and open spaces surveyed had dog fouling present, compared with 10% during the 2018 survey.

The most commonly observed item of litter in Northern Ireland’s streets and public spaces was cigarette butts. These were found to appear across all land use types with 60% of surveyed areas having at least one cigarette butt present, although there were often many more. Drinks containers, including plastic bottles, cans and takeaway coffee cups, were also noted as a recurring issue, observed in 45% of all surveyed areas.

Further Room for Improvement

Although the report indicates a slight reduction in dog fouling levels, it was noted that dog fouling clusters or ‘hotspots’ are still a problem. Streets and public spaces that did have dog fouling present, were found to have had an increased likelihood of having multiple occurrences, with one recreational area surveyed having as many as 9 dog fouls present on a 50m stretch. This supports the idea that a failure to clean up dog fouling is influenced by ‘signalling’, i.e. the presence of dog fouling indicates to other owners that not clearing up after their pet is acceptable in the area.

Rural roads, whilst improving, are still a problem and are disproportionately affected by litter when compared to residential, recreational and retail areas. 24% of rural roads failed to reach an acceptable standard for litter. Rural roads suffer mostly from the presence of plastic bottles, cans and take away coffee cups with 82% of transects having at least one drink container present. This type of litter will almost always come from cars with passengers carelessly throwing their empty drinks out of the windows.

The impacts of Covid-19 have put additional pressures on Waste collections services throughout Northern Ireland. There is a need for everyone to act responsibly and ensure they are disposing of their waste in an appropriate manner.

Commenting on the report Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said

"We welcome that we have seen improvements last year in the fight against litter and now is not the time to take our foot off the peddle. Littering, no matter how small, damages our environment and hurts public health. The message is clear, disposing of our waste properly protects our vulnerable environment, just as it protects vulnerable key workers and public health. Working together, all sections of government and the community, we can all play our part in making a difference".

The Northern Ireland Litter survey is a country wide survey that is carried out by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to assess the quality and cleanliness of our public spaces. The objective of the survey is to benchmark the cleansing performance of the councils by rating them against the same scale, thus ensuring a fair comparison. The results of the survey also provide a picture of the levels of different kinds of litter across Northern Ireland, how these vary by area, and how littering trends are varying over time.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations that Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful believe are necessary to meaningfully reduce littering, dog fouling and related environmental damage to Northern Ireland.

You can read the full report at: https://keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.etinu.net/keepnorthernirelandbeautiful/documents/007934.pdf

ENDS

To speak to a press spokesperson or for more information please contact Jamie Miller, Local Environmental Quality Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at: Jamie.miller@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org T: 07725262248

Eco-Schools are marking the one-month milestone of our #StayConnected campaign. Using the best approaches in technology we believe that we can still work closely together whilst staying apart. With schools closed for the foreseeable future, Eco-Schools are determined to ensure that parents, teachers and pupils still get the most out of our programme and learn about the importance of looking after our local environment. More importantly, Eco-Schools has always played an important role in promoting the benefits for the mental health and well-being of people from feeling a connection with the environment.

Over the past four weeks we have been thrilled with the level of engagement from pupils, teachers and parents across Northern Ireland who have sent in their entries. Every week pictures are posted on social media with our Facebook and Twitter pages sharing some of the best. We have asked families to take up baking in order to reduce plastic packaging. We have also tried to get pupils to listen out for local nature on their daily exercises. This week we are asking our followers to create their own storyboard to share their key environmental message.

All of these tasks are fun and interactive, keeping pupils active with schools off and also giving tasks that the entire family can enjoy together. This is all part of our programme’s goal of keeping people connected whilst we are all being asked to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Speaking about this milestone, our Eco-Schools Project Officer, Dr Francesca Di Palo said;

“We are delighted with the response we have received so far for this campaign. Parents, pupils and teachers have engaged with such enthusiasm that it really gives us confidence that the values and goals of Eco-Schools can thrive even in the most difficult circumstances. I want to take this time to thank all of those who have taken part so far.

If you haven’t been following the challenges so far but still want to take part, don’t panic. All of our challenges are available on our website. You can also view them on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages for you to read and take part. Just remember to tag our pages so we can spread the creativity far and wide. This is a positive campaign to keep people connected and everyone is welcome to join”

Eco-Schools are launching an appeal to today to #StayConnected. Using the best approaches in technology we believe that we can still work closely together whilst staying apart. With schools closed for the foreseeable future, Eco-Schools are determined to ensure that parents, teachers and pupils still get the most out of our programme and learn about the importance of looking after our local environment. More importantly, Eco-Schools has always played an important role in promoting the benefits for the mental health and wellbeing of people from feeling a connection with the environment.

Over the past two weeks this programme has been looking at ways in which we can remain connected with one another while we go through this period of social distancing. Through increased use of our social media channels and other online platforms we are working to promote resources that can help teachers keep an emphasis on the environment and easy to use resources for pupils to use at home.

We are proud to launch our Three Easy Tricks to keep people connected over the next few weeks. This includes promoting available webinars that are being produced within the sector for young people to take part in easy to use, fun activities at home. This includes photography, importance of environmental education and civic participation. All can be done within the comfort of your own home. In addition to this, we are encouraging the public to share their positive Eco-Schools antics with us online so we can promote the good news stories that are out there at this very difficult time.

Speaking about this new initiative the Environmental Education Manager, Charlene McKeown said;

“We are delighted to launch this campaign today to encourage people to stay more connected with each other. With schools closed, it can be hard to have enough activities in the day to keep children occupied. At Eco-Schools we are determined to help bridge the gap and ensure that we keep promoting the important values that have made such a difference in schools across Northern Ireland.

I would encourage everyone to keep an eye on our social media channels and read our fortnightly newsletter to find out all about some of the interactive environmentally friendly activities that are currently available for all of the family to enjoy. We want you to share your positive stories with our online Eco-Schools community and we will make sure to promote them and spread the positivity far and wide.”

Download the attachment for more information.

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NI Litter: Threat to eco-system exposed

Claire Hudson   Fri 28 Feb 2020

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has released a report funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), that demonstrates that litter remains at concerning levels in NI – damaging our forests, parks, beaches and streets.

The Litter Composition Report estimates 1,294,164 items are littered on our streets at any one time, weighing approximately 28 tonnes and costing the public purse £45 million annually in Northern Ireland.

According to the report, a significant amount of the litter found contained plastic - 71% is made up of cigarette butts, plastic bottles, confectionary and crisp wrappers. Plastic never breaks down and forms harmful micro-plastics which enter our ecosystem. The second most common category was metals at 14.5%, which was mostly made up of non-alcoholic drinks packaging at 9.7%.

Agriculture and Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, stated: “My Department is actively engaged in protecting and valuing our precious landscape, so it can be enjoyed by everyone. Those who engage in littering are not valuing our landscape and these actions have a negative impact that is felt across Northern Ireland. This Litter Composition Report shows that the amount of litter in our environment and entering the eco-system is still a real issue, and the findings will help to identify ways to address this. My Department, in partnership with Councils and NGOs, such as Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, is using a combined approach of legislation, education, awareness and enforcement to tackle and improve the litter issue in Northern Ireland. We are also working towards Northern Ireland’s first Environment Strategy which will play a key role in setting Northern Ireland’s environmental priorities for coming decades.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and DAERA commissioned the independent litter compositional analysis to alert both the general public and business community to the seriousness of the situation – no similar study has been conducted in Northern Ireland to date.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful comments: “This is the first ever NI Litter Composition Report – and the root problems are clear. We need to tackle the fact that one in three people openly admit to littering*. We must also share the responsibility for litter that is being created through increased ‘convenience’ packaging.”

At Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful we invest in litter prevention awareness through our Live Here Love Here campaign.

#TacklingPlasticNI

Click on the link below to view full Litter Composition Report 2019/20.

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Litter Composition Report 2019/20

One Big Opportunity: DAERA 25 Year Plan

Karina Robinson   Tue 05 Nov 2019   updated: Fri 20 Dec 2019

The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs has launched a consultation to develop a 25 year plan for our environment. That gives you one BIG opportunity to make a real difference and we want to make sure decision makers hear from you.

To make it easier for you and to give you some ideas we have included our responses below. To see the list of questions and full report go to:

DAERA - Public Discussion Document

Simply copy and paste the text below and email it to esni@daera-ni.gov.uk by 5pm on 5th February 2020.

Remember to say who you are and include your age.

Please share this with your family, friends, work colleagues and networks. The climate emergency requires ambitious leadership and urgent action. Everyone needs to raise their voice, everyone needs to play their part.

Our Responses

Question 1: Do you agree that the Environment Strategy should sit alongside existing Executive-endorsed strategies, such as the Sustainable Development, Public Health and Economic Strategies?

Response

Create healthier communities by providing opportunities to get together more outdoors in accessible public spaces to do good and feel good through practical environmental action. This should link in with other strategies around sustainable development, mental Health and well-being. Research has shown the benefits that volunteering has for an individual’s general health.

Question 4: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Engagement strategic theme?

Response

Inform every young person about climate breakdown, the loss of our wildlife and marine plastic pollution and what it means for our future. Help us find ways to raise awareness and to take action together. Declare a climate emergency.

Question 5: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Prosperity strategic theme?

Response

Invest more in public transport making our dependence on cars less necessary and improving air quality

Question 7: Do you have any comments on what specific issues should be included under a proposed Environmental Quality strategic theme?

Response

Plant more native trees. We have the lowest level of tree cover anywhere in Europe and want to see 20% of our land planted with trees; important for nature to thrive.

Create a waste free society where we use less, waste less and stop polluting our seas. And anything we use, including single use plastics, needs to be part of a truly circular economy.

Help everyone learn how to grow more tasty local food and provide plants for our pollinating bees.

Question 10: What are your big ideas for the future protection and enhancement of the environment?

Response All of the above

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has announced today that it will be supporting the Global Climate Strike on the 20th September 2019. The strike is being organised across the world to encourage greater awareness of the climate emergency facing the entire planet. Locally, we are adding our voices to the growing number of people who are demanding more concerted action on protecting our environment.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has consistently argued for stronger action at a Northern Ireland level and across the European Union. The rising number of alarming stories highlighting the impact of climate change across the globe demonstrates why we cannot wait to change our behaviours and that urgent action is required now.

Speaking about supporting the strike, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Ian Humphreys, said;

“There is no hiding place from climate change. We simply cannot afford to stay silent and do nothing. We have an obligation for future generations to step up to the mark and highlight the growing climate emergency facing all of us. We all have a duty to change how we live and search for alternatives that can protect our environment now and for the long term.”

“The growing body of evidence is clear. We are contributing in harmful ways to our planet, whether through plastic pollution, the mass extinction of species or fuelling climate change. We need to think about the longer term impacts of the decisions that we are making today. As a society there has to be wide scale behaviour change from all of us in order to reverse the severe damage that is being done to our environment.”

He continued;

“I want to commend those people, young and old, who are peacefully yet powerfully challenging us all to make a real difference on these undeniable issues. It is for those reasons and a belief that change is always possible that I am delighted to lend our organisations support to this day of action.”

Queen’s University Belfast is one of 76 locations to achieve the Green Flag Award. The Lanyon site at Queen’s, which also achieved a Green Heritage Site Accreditation, is the first university in Northern Ireland to be recognised by the scheme.

Today, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity that runs the scheme in Northern Ireland, revealed an ever growing and diverse number of free to enjoy places that have been awarded a prestigious Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces and is growing from strength to strength in Northern Ireland, increasing from three sites since programme inception in 2008.

Queen’s University provided the perfect backdrop to this year’s annual awards event where a record 76 Green Flag awards were presented.

Parks and open spaces wishing to achieve Green Flag status must have a site management plan in place and be able to demonstrate they comply with a range of strict criteria including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management, biodiversity, community involvement and safety standards. The Awards are judged annually by a panel of experts, who volunteer their time to assess the management plans and the applicant sites through a rigorous judging process.

For the 2019/20 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw a continued increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.

Queen’s University was one of six first-time winners this year across all participating organisations including: Brownstown Park and Gosford Forest Park in Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Randalstown Riverside Walk in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Drumglass Park in Belfast City Council and Warrenpoint Municipal Park in Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

Joanne Clague, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer of Queen’s University said: “I am very pleased that Queen’s University Belfast is the first university in Northern Ireland to have achieved a Green Flag Award. The University has put significant efforts into creating, and maintaining, a high standard public green space for our staff, students, local community and visitors. We are delighted to have been recognised in this way.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award, where the sites are managed and maintained by loyal volunteers working at a local level. This year Sentry Hill Community Garden received their first Green Flag Community Award alongside Ballyeaston Church Ruin, Rathfern Activity Centre, Sentry Hill Community Garden and Toome Linear Park.

Queen’s University Belfast and Brooke Park in Derry and Strabane achieved their first Green Heritage Award along with Antrim Castle Gardens, Belfast Botanic Gardens and Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre; these sites celebrate and promote elements of their heritage that make their site unique.

There are now more places than ever for the public to enjoy free high quality outdoor spaces in Northern Ireland.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:

“It is time once again to celebrate a record number of Green Flag Awards meaning more spaces than ever before offering wonderful experiences for visitors throughout the year. I also want to thank the staff who give their all to maintain these spaces to such high standards for us to enjoy.

As all of us (and young people particularly) become glued to our phones and tablets these fantastic green spaces offer some of the closest and most accessible opportunities to explore and connect to nature. Where better to learn about our reliance on the natural world? Where better to spend quality time with friends and family? Where better to relax away from all the busy-ness of life? Come to think of it I am heading outside…”

If you are interested in finding out further information about the Green Flag Award or other programmes run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful please e-mail us on enquiries@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org call us on 028 9073 6920 or check out our website www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.

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