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Marine Litter Report

Tackling Plastic 

What Is the Marine Litter Report and Why Does It Matter?

Since 2012 Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has run a programme that collects information about litter on beaches around Northern Ireland. After four surveys are completed throughout the year, this data becomes our Marine Litter Report, which subsequently goes on to inform the Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy that aims to tackle the scourge. 

Sadly, marine litter is not just a local problem. Plastic bottles and other buoyant litter are often pushed by wind and tides far from where they enter the sea and, prior to that, long distances away from where they were dropped by inconsiderate behaviour. The reality is that marine litter enters our seas in ways that are just as varied as its impacts on wildlife in the sea and humans when it washes up on our shores. As such, the survey findings are fed into the International OSPAR Commission database, where they help in developing a global scientific understanding of the significant problem and initiating actions to progress its solution.

The Marine Litter Report is generously supported by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also takes the opportunity to thank the volunteers who both help to gather the data for each year’s report and take part in the beach clean-up efforts that follow.

The Latest Report 

As with previous years, the 2021 survey contains findings on the ‘Terrible Ten’ litter items, seasonal variations on plastic pollution at 12 coastal areas, insights into the psychology of litter and a series of recommendations for different stakeholders.

Sadly, the results from our most recent report show that 2021 was the worst year for marine litter since recording began back in 2012.

Our CEO, Dr Ian Humpheys comments: “This report once again demonstrates the continuing pollution of Northern Ireland’s seas and shores. Marine litter is a global problem and a powerful example of our interconnected planet. A bottle discarded in Bangladesh might wash up in Bangor or vice versa, but some of the litter we find on our beaches comes from local sources, which we do have the power to address in our own communities.”

Read the 2021 Marine Litter Report

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Litter Composition Report

In addition to the Marine Litter Report, we carried out the first Litter Composition Report in 2019. This independent and granular examination of what makes up our litter was commissioned to alert both the public and business community to how serious and pervasive the situation is. 

No similar study has been conducted in NI to date. We will undertake a new Litter Composition Report in 2023.

Read the 2019 Litter Composition Report


For more information on our Marine Litter Report, please contact us.