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Ards and North Down, Causeway Coast and Glens, Mid and East Antrim, Mid Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down councils all took home environmental awards at a recent presentation celebrating excellent practice in land and waterside management.

The 2022 Beach and Marina Awards saw environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful hand out a total of 27 Blue Flag Awards and Seaside Awards at the Ballygally Castle Hotel on 18 May. Awards went to the operational teams behind sites that had achieved the highest international and UK standards in water quality, education, safety and accessibility.

Causeway Coast and Glens emerged as the big winners of the occasion with 12 Blue Flag Awards, and increased their number of marinas from one to four. Ards and North Down’s four Seaside Awards represented the most for a single council in the category, while Mid and East Antrim and Newry, Mourne and Down claimed three Blue Flag Awards apiece.

There were also solo Blue Flag Award wins for Mid Ulster District Council and BoatFolk, the independent owner of Bangor Marina and 10 other locations across the UK.

Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA, who delivered a speech at the presentation said, “I am delighted that Northern Ireland again has had such success in the Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. It is inspiring to see so many of our beaches and marinas achieving the exceptionally high standards demanded by these awards. It is a wonderful achievement, especially given the difficulties in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the many challenges that has presented. I am grateful for the cooperation and collaborative working through the Better Beaches Forum, which is led by my Department and involves KNIB, Northern Ireland Water, councils and stakeholders, in achieving this number of awards.”

The Minister continued, “These awards are excellent news for our holidaymakers and bathers who can confidently enjoy our beaches and marinas, and avail of the award winning facilities that are on offer and I remain committed to ensuring that my Department continues to play a key role in running the annual programme for water quality testing at our world class beaches”

Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful added, “We are privileged to give out 27 Blue Flag and Seaside Awards this year, which signal that Northern Ireland’s beaches and marinas have reached best-in-class standards to match countries across the globe. These landmarks enrich the lives of our communities, and we send profuse thanks and congratulations to the teams who maintain their quality all year round.”

All sites earned their prestigious accolade after successfully convincing a jury panel that their application demonstrated the required quality thresholds. Awards apply from June to the end of September, to coincide with the beach season, and need renewed each year.

Members of the public are invited to enjoy the award-winning amenities at each site, which are designated bathing waters that have the highest water-quality standards and excellent facilities, making them ideal coastal destinations.

The Blue Flag Award is operated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), a worldwide environmental organisation that also oversees the Eco-Schools, Learning About Forests and Young Reporters for the Environment programmes.

FEE celebrates 35 years of the Blue Flag Award in 2022, and has so far issued 4,831 Blue Flags in 50 countries this year.

The Seaside Award is nationally recognised, rewarding local beaches since 2008.

• Nine Blue Flag Award Beaches winners – Benone Beach, Castlerock Beach, Downhill Beach, Portrush East Strand Beach, Portrush West Strand Beach, Whiterocks Beach [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Cranfield Bay, Murlough Beach, Tyrella Beach [Newry, Mourne and Down]

• Nine Blue Flag Award Marinas winners – Bangor Marina [BoatFolk]; Ballycastle Marina, Coleraine Marina, Portrush Harbour and Marina, Rathline Marina [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Carrickfergus Marina, Glenarm Marina, Portglenone Marina [Mid and East Antrim]; Ballyronan Marina [Mid Ulster]

• Nine Seaside Awards winners – Ballywalter South Beach, Cloughey Beach, Groomsport Beach, Millisle Beach [Ards and North Down]; Ballycastle Beach, Waterfoot Beach [Causeway Coast and Glens]; Ballygally Beach, Brown's Bay Beach, Carnlough Beach [Mid and East Antrim]

Thumbs Up For Balmoral’s Free Drinking Water Stations

Christopher Walsh   Tue 10 May 2022

Ahead of our return to the 153rd Balmoral Show, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful welcomes the provision of three new drinking water stations at this year’s event.

We are echoing organisers' call for visitors to bring or borrow a reusable drinking container for the occasion, which can be filled with free filtered drinking water at various points on site and help to reduce the use of single use plastics at the event.

Alternatively, guests will have the option to buy one of the Balmoral Show’s limited-edition water bottles, which they can top up at the Show and beyond to stay hydrated.

Chris Gourley, Tackling Plastics Manager of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful comments, “Reusable drinks bottles are a very simple initiative, but they make a tangible difference in preventing single use plastic water bottles from building up in landfill sites and, worse, our streets, rural areas and waterways. We are pleased to see that the Balmoral Show has made it easy for visitors to access sustainable drinking-water options this year.”

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful looks forward to attending the Balmoral Show between Wednesday to Saturday, where we will be educating and informing on plastic pollution and asking attendees to sign our Plastic Promise.

We will also be inviting ticket holders to discover our other environmental themes, with members of our Climate Action, Biodiversity Recovery, Live Here Love Here and Eco-Schools teams all making the trip to offer more information about their respective programmes.

For the latest updates on the Balmoral Show, visit www.balmoralshow.co.uk or follow Balmoral Show on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Caption: Rhonda Geary, Operations Director, Royal Ulster Agricultural Society unveils the new filtered drinking water stations at this year’s Balmoral Show in partnership with Ulster Bank.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful launches manifesto for the 2022 Assembly Elections

David McCann   Wed 30 Mar 2022   updated: Tue 10 May 2022

Today Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful launches its manifesto for the upcoming Assembly elections. The manifesto outlines specific proposals to help MLAs make improvements to our environment over the next five years. This year our message is simple; Better is Possible.

Speaking about the launch of the manifesto, our Chief Executive Ian Humphreys said;

“We want Northern Ireland to become a leader in fighting the Climate Emergency. Instead of feeling like this problem is too complex or impossible to solve, we believe that Better is Possible. We have made some important strides forward with the passage of Climate Change legislation but there is still so much more work to do. Our manifesto sets out some of the next steps forward.

"I would encourage all candidates to support our positive plans to help make a real difference. Better is Possible for Northern Ireland and our organisation is committed to playing its part to make that happen"

Read our manifesto below.

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Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has signed a letter with our partners Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Scotland Beautiful to call for litter payments to form a key component of the UK Government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy.

The signatories to the letter believe that the EPR scheme offers a meaningful chance to tackle the root causes of many environmental problems by fully adopting the “polluter pays” principle. This underpins the proposals by shifting the costs of pollution onto those who profit from placing large amounts of packaging on the market.

The UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland had proposed that under the forthcoming EPR system, producers would be made responsible for the full net costs of managing packaging waste, including bin and ground litter management costs.

Speaking about this issue our Chief Executive, Ian Humphreys said "In Northern Ireland, we have spoken loudly about the litter problem. It's costing us millions of pounds every year to deal with. Along with our partners, we believe that only with meaningful and collaborative action can we see a real improvement. That is why I am adding Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful's voice to this letter so that we include litter payments in EPR legislation to help support the costs of dealing with this problem"

Letter to ministers is attached.

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New School Pollinator Grants launched for 2022

Helen Tomb   Wed 02 Feb 2022

Following the success of the first ever Rural Community Pollinator Scheme in 2021, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots MLA has launched a scheme specifically for schools to improve the health of our bees and pollinators and help protect our eco-systems.

The £2million scheme will provide grants between £3,000 and £12,000 to schools to create or enhance a pollinator garden and will be delivered by Live Here Love Here.

Speaking at launch of the scheme at Carr Primary School, Lisburn, Minister Poots said: “Following the outstanding success of the Rural Community Pollinator Scheme and the interest shown by schools, I have asked my officials to develop a scheme specifically for schools across Northern Ireland. Everyone is aware of the importance of our pollinators - the butterflies, moths, hoverflies, some beetles, flies, wasps but most importantly bees - and I believe it is important to educate our young people of the important role these pollinators play in our everyday life. With this scheme I hope to build on the success of the community based scheme.”

Grants will open for applications in April 2022.

Green Flag Awards for Parks and Open Spaces Revealed

David McCann   Mon 11 Oct 2021   updated: Mon 18 Oct 2021

~ Park fans encouraged to branch out this autumn! ~

Fans of Northern Ireland’s many popular parks and open spaces have been waiting to hear if their favourite place has received a coveted Green Flag Award for 2021.

Today, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity that runs the international awards locally, revealed a list of old favourites and new entrants, reflecting the many types of open spaces that are used and cherished by local communities. 84 parks and open spaces have been recognised with a Green Flag Award for 2021, including 4 new Green Flag Awards, 1 new Community Award and 1 new Green Flag Heritage Award.

The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces and is increasingly sought after in Northern Ireland, with a 27-fold increase in participants since the local programme opened in 2008.

Rachel Vaughan, who manages the Green Flag Awards programme, said she hoped people would use the awards as an incentive to visit some new places in one of the nicest seasons of the year. She said;

“We all love a walk through the autumn leaves and it’s uplifting to discover a new spot to enjoy. When you visit a Green Flag park or open space you can be reassured that the location is being managed to a really high standard as they’ve been through a rigorous judging process that assesses sites across a range of issues including their horticultural standards, cleanliness, biodiversity and safety. And at time when many people’s finances are under pressure, it’s important to highlight the fact that all Green Flag spaces are free to everyone.”

Parks and open spaces play a hugely important role in supporting the health and wellbeing of local communities and come in many shapes and sizes. The expert judges, who are all volunteers themselves, were delighted to include several community spaces in this year’s selection, which are also run and managed by volunteers at a local level. These include: Shellinghill Park and Millennium Path, Sentry Hill Community Garden, Footprints Women’s Centre, Rathfern Activity Centre, Toome Linear Walk and Ballyeaston Church Ruin.

Special Green Flag Heritage Awards were presented to Stormont Estate and Park, Brooke Park, Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre, Antrim Castle Gardens and Clotworthy House, Queen’s University Belfast, Warrenpoint Municipal Park, Newry Canal and Belfast Botanic Gardens. These sites are making the most of unique heritage features, which enhance the experience of visitors to their sites.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful will be celebrating our award-winning parks and open spaces through a social media campaign the week beginning Monday 11 October. Please consider following us on Twitter and Facebook to see the impact of our programme

Full list of winners can be found here https://www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org/cgi-bin/generic?instanceID=28

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.

The 2020 Marine Litter Report found an average of 375 items of litter per 100 meters of beach surveyed, the environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful can reveal. This equates to a total of 18,767 items of litter recorded on the 12 beaches surveyed.

As was the case in 2019, plastics were the most commonly recorded items of litter, making up 67% of all litter counted. On average, 37 plastic drinks containers and 48 lids were found per 100 meters surveyed. Additionally, short pieces of string, cord and rope were found across the beaches, with an average of 70 lengths of string counted per survey.

Despite the significant challenges presented by COVID-19 there is room for optimism as this report shows that there has been a reduction in the amount of litter and in particular the amount of plastic recorded on Northern Ireland’s beaches from previous years. Speaking about the findings in the report, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Dr Ian Humphreys said;

‘This report once again demonstrates the continuing pollution of Northern Ireland’s seas and shores. Whilst it is welcome that we have seen an improvement, we cannot take any progress for granted and must ensure that we keep this downward trend going. There is no hiding place anymore for ignorance about the impact that litter is having on our beaches, seas and waterways. We need to see greater emphasis on behaviour change campaigns and also a stronger requirement on producers of our waste to take more proactive steps in helping pay for the cost of cleaning up our waste.

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. It is their dedication and work that makes all the difference in the battle against litter. But they cannot do this alone, we all need to play our part in tackling this problem’.

The surveys in Northern Ireland are funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the data collected is fed into the International OSPAR Commission database to help in developing a global scientific understanding of this significant problem and to inform actions to address the issue.

Throughout 2020, while carrying out marine litter surveys, more people than ever before approached the surveying team and enquired about what they were doing, with many sharing their stories about how they have been inspired to do something about the litter on their local beaches. Although this report has found the lowest record of litter since the beginning of the surveys in 2012, perhaps due to the highly unusual circumstances of 2020, this trend would need to continue before we could be confident there has been a true positive change in marine litter pollution on our local beaches.

To support the reduction in marine litter within Northern Ireland, a new grants scheme has been set-up, making £175,000 available in 2021/22 for organisations and groups to avail of. The aim of the scheme is to help prevent marine litter entering our environment as well as removing this litter from coastal and riverine areas. This will help protect our waterways and marine areas, as well as improving marine biodiversity and the health and wellbeing of our communities. It is hoped the scheme will run for a further 3 years with up to £675,000 available by 2025. The scheme is funded by DAERA and will be administered by Live Here Love Here.

The Tackling Marine Litter Grants Scheme closes at 11am on Monday 27th September 2021. For further information, please visit the Live Here Love Here website.

In addition to this grants scheme, the Department has recently launched a Call for Evidence on a Plan to Eliminate Plastic Pollution in Northern Ireland. The Call for Evidence will seek responses from a wide range of stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities that exist in eliminating plastic pollution, as well as seeking examples of best practice and sources of expertise or evidence. The public Call for Evidence opened on 28th June 2021 and will run for a 14 week period until 5pm on 1st October 2021

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

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is delighted to announce that 26 beaches and marinas across the country have achieved standards of excellence at their annual Beach and Marina Awards. The focus of this years’ event is to celebrate Northern Ireland’s stunning array of blue spaces and raise awareness of the benefits of a healthy marine environment and the positive connection between the outdoors and our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The Beach and Marina Awards are internationally recognised awards that highlight how Northern Ireland’s blue spaces are something to take pride in, look after and enjoy; with the awards also giving an opportunity to celebrate those key workers who maintain our local beaches and marinas to such high standards.

The internationally renowned Blue Flag will be flown at eight of Northern Ireland’s beaches and six marinas during the 2021 season. The Blue Flag award is certified by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and has 49 participating countries globally. Northern Ireland’s 14 blue space locations will join the 4,820 beaches, marinas or boats that proudly fly the Blue Flag around the world. Beach and marina operators receiving a Blue Flag are demonstrating their commitment to protecting the coastal environment, excellent water quality, water safety, and providing access for all, along with providing engaging educational activities on-site.

The Seaside Award and Green Coast Award are national standards for beaches in Northern Ireland, these programmes ensure visitors of a clean, safe, attractive and well-managed beach with the facilities provided being appropriate for the location of the beach. One beach has received the Green Coast Award and eleven beaches have received the Seaside Award in 2021.

The Award Flags may only be flown if all the criteria are successfully met at time of application, with standards maintained throughout the entirety of the bathing season.

Northern Ireland’s coastline has numerous iconic sights, and many of our award-winning beaches include, or are next to, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with specially protected habitats and species forming a large part of the experience visitors enjoy. The aim of these award programmes is to improve the connection between people and their surroundings by encouraging them to spend time in and learn more about their coastal environment. Many award-winning beaches and marinas provide information points to showcase the best of Northern Ireland’s wildlife and provide visitors with information on how they can enjoy these natural wonders without disturbing or damaging them.

Information on the award-winning blue spaces can be found at www.beachni.com and www.liveherelovehere.app.

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “The past year has restricted our ability to travel and meet people. Yet, we are fortunate to have such great local blue spaces right on our doorstep. All of us can be rightly proud of this beautiful place we call home. Behind every one of these special places are dedicated key workers whose effort all year round keeps these blue spaces in such excellent condition. These awards are a small way of saying thank you and recognising that we have so much to be proud of in our community”.

For media enquiries contact:

Ian Humphreys, CEO Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful

Email: ian.humphreys@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org

Note to Editor

Ards and North Down Borough Council

Seaside Award

Ballywalter Beach

Groomsport Beach

Millisle Beach

Cloughey Beach

Boatfolk Marinas

Blue Flag

Bangor Marina

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

Blue Flag

Benone Beach

Downhill Beach

Castlerock Beach

Portrush West Strand

Whiterocks Beach

Ballycastle Marina

Seaside Award

Ballycastle Beach

Portrush East Strand

Waterfoot Beach

Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)

Seaside Award

Crawfordsburn Beach

Green Coast Award

Helen’s Bay Beach

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Blue Flag

Carrickfergus Marina

Glenarm Marina

Portglenone Marina

Seaside Award

Ballygally Beach

Brown’s Bay

Carnlough Beach

Mid Ulster District Council

Blue Flag

Ballyronan Marina

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council

Blue Flag

Cranfield West Beach

Murlough Beach

Tyrella Beach

Northern Ireland’s dirty lockdown secret

David McCann   Thu 25 Mar 2021

A new report produced by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, brings up worrying signs regarding the issue of litter and dog fouling throughout the country during the pandemic.

The Cleaner Neighbourhoods report, which details the findings of the 2020 Northern Ireland Litter Survey, highlights an increase in the levels of litter and dog fouling and a continued decline in the ‘cleanliness’ of streets, Roads and Public Spaces.

Figures from the survey show that 18% of the transects surveyed were deemed to be an unacceptable standard for cleanliness. This represents an increase in the number sites failing to meet the grade in 2019.

Findings and Insights

• The presence of dog fouling across Northern Ireland increased significantly from 6% of transects surveyed in 2019 to 13% in 2020. This is the highest level of dog fouling since the beginning of the surveys in 2012.

• The most commonly observed item of litter on Northern Ireland’s streets and public spaces remains cigarette butts. These were found to appear across all land use types with 69% of surveyed areas having at least one cigarette butt present, although this was seen as high as 93% and 94% along primary and secondary retail transects.

• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was recorded on 3% of all streets and open spaces surveyed. It can be estimated that at any one time there could be 5,272 gloves and 2,000 masks on our streets and open spaces.

• Rural roads remain disproportionately affected by litter when compared with residential, retail and recreational areas. 48% of rural roads failed to reach an acceptable standard for litter. This litter is clearly coming from people throwing it out of their cars. The survey found that 41% of rural roads had takeaway litter present, 66% had confectionary litter present and 89% of all rural roads had drink related litter present.

It is perhaps not surprising that litter and dog fouling levels have risen given that the cleaning spend for Northern Ireland has dropped by nearly a third in two years, from £45,million in 2017 to just £31 million in 2019.

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

Preventing littering requires all of us to do something. Government legislating to help end our dependence on single use items, people taking care to dispose of waste properly and businesses paying a fair share of the costs of cleaning up their packaging and cigarette butts are all needed to make a lasting difference.

We have a growing litter problem that we need to face up to as a community. The cost to our environment and public purse is too great a burden for us to bear. The pandemic has seen us care for the vulnerable in society. It is now time we extended that care for our vulnerable environment. As more people discover and enjoy the great outdoors we must all take our litter home or use the bins provided. To do anything else is to destroy what we hold dear.

You can read the full report at:

https://keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.etinu.net/cgi-bin/generic?instanceID=48

LOCAL LANDFILLS NO LONGER IN FASHION WARNS ENVIRONMENTAL CHARITY

David McCann   Mon 15 Feb 2021   updated: Mon 12 Apr 2021

Northern Ireland is a nation of fashion-conscious, style mavens but when it comes to the environment, we overconsume and underuse our clothing, with approximately 533 tonnes of clothing thrown out every single week.

Environmental charity, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has launched a new campaign, in collaboration with Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), to tackle public behaviour and awareness around textile waste and encourage consumers to never put clothing in the bin.

Over the last 12 months, Northern Ireland has disposed of approximately 27,700 tonnes of textiles – over half the weight of our much-loved Titanic ship - with many of these items still in perfect condition

Most-concerningly, around 30% of the unwanted clothing and other textiles that are binned each year, approximately 8,300 tonnes, end up in landfill.*

Landfills are a costly burden for ratepayers but they also emit greenhouse gases which are harmful to the environment, and create other dangerous pollutants that negatively affect the health of those living nearby.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland’s landfills are in a vulnerable position, becoming closer and closer to full capacity, and as a result of this social issue, Live Here Love Here, a partnership between DAERA, Local Councils, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has today launched its inaugural Fashion Forever campaign.

Forever Fashion urges consumers to never put their unwanted clothing in the bin and to consider more environmentally friendly alternatives when disposing of textiles.

Some of these options include:

• Reuse: One person’s trash is another’s treasure. Donating unwanted items to friends and family or charity shops, or shopping and selling preloved fashion through NI’s growing network of vintage shops or online through sites such Depop and Vinted, is a great way to avoid binning textiles while potentially making some money in the process. It’s also worth remembering that style always comes back around so hanging onto a few choice pieces could be a fashion-forward choice.

• Repair: Wear and tear doesn’t automatically mean the bin. Simple repairs to clothing like popping on a new button, removing or covering a stain, or mending a hole can prolong their life and bring many months if not years more enjoyment.

• Reimagine: Reimagine clothing by upcycling unflattering fashion items. Becoming creative with a sewing machine, either at home or engaging with a professional dressmaker, gives pieces that no longer fit a new lease of life.

If an item of clothing or textile is very worn and in an unusable condition, the message remains – never put it in the bin. Instead take this item to your local recycling centre when it becomes safe to do so.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the suggested disposal options are not advised under Government restrictions, and as people continue to remain at home, the bin may seem like the easiest, safest option. With this in mind, Live Here Love Here is urging people to hold on to their unwanted items until they can be donated or upcycled.

Siobhan Purnell, Co-ordinator of the Fashion Forever campaign said: “Our Fashion Forever message is simple - never put your unwanted clothing in the bin.

“Remind yourself of the more environmentally-friendly, alternative options – reuse, repair and reimagine. Could someone use this jacket? Can I easily repair this hole? Can I sell this dress online?

“Fast and disposable fashion through its price and fast delivery propositioning makes it easy for people, particularly the younger generation, to buy lots of clothes. Buying lots of clothes perpetuates disposal and therefore there is an escalating trend of binning textiles.

“We want people to know that they can still enjoy fashion and shopping, but also that by making one small change and committing to never putting clothes in the bin, they can make a huge difference to our local environment. Remember that fashion can and should be forever.”

To find out more about Live Here Love Here’s Fashion Forever campaign visit @FashionForeverNI on Instagram or liveherelovehere.org