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Volunteers Lift Millionth Piece of Marine Litter

David McCann   Mon 03 Dec 2018

Rostrevor was the scene of an historic moment last month, as volunteers for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful carried out a clean-up on the town’s beach and lifted the millionth piece of litter that the environmental charity has counted across the ten beaches that they survey nationwide.

The organisation has been carrying out these surveys since 2012, using a well-trained group of dedicated volunteers to assess the levels of marine litter washed up on some of our best loved and most iconic beaches. Once the litter count is complete, another team of volunteers then follow in behind and bag it all up, ensuring that our beaches are kept as clean as possible while also allowing relevant data to be gathered on the extent of the marine litter issue. These data are then used to publish their annual Marine Litter Report and are also uploaded to the OSPAR Commission’s database – a portal that receives data from a number of other countries in North East Europe. This information can then be used to develop policy and research potential solutions to the issue, which has come under intense public scrutiny within the last year.

Whilst one million pieces of litter may seem like a shocking figure for some, to others it is not at all surprising. Freddie Harris, the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Manager at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said, “We see a ridiculous amount of litter on some of our survey beaches. The number we have reached this month is obviously a big milestone, but it’s hard to be too pleased about it because it’s a clear sign that we’re not doing enough to combat the problem. We can collect data, write reports and inform policy makers as much as we like, but unless we also engage with the public in a way that energises them to change the way they act, we’re fighting a losing battle. We would ask everyone to think about their daily habits with regards to waste, whether it’s taking reuseable bags with them to the shops, or bringing their refillable mug to the café – we can all do our bit to help. The most worrying aspect of this for me is that if you look at the data from 2012 to 2017, 79% of all the litter we’ve counted has been plastic. This is a material that never disappears from our environment – it just gets smaller and smaller until it works its way into the food chain and our drinking water. That can’t be healthy.”

The charity also announced that they have just received funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to run a programme that will specifically target Single Use Plastics, assessing their use in Northern Ireland and looking at ways in which that can be reduced to help address the overall issue of litter in our local environment.


To speak to a programme spokesperson, please contact Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO, at ian.humphreys@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org or on 028 90 736 920.