The war on litter has been declared. More than 70 supporters of the Belfast Telegraph's Big Spring Clean gathered at the Skainos Centre in east Belfast yesterday to help officially launch our anti-litter campaign.
This year's initiative is picking up pace, with more than 60 events already registered. Major clean-ups are planned for the Newry to Portadown canal towpath, Murlough Beach, Lisburn Distillery FC, Comber, Saintfield and Moneyglass.
We have teamed up with Tidy Northern Ireland and DoE Rethink in a bid to galvanise thousands of people across Northern Ireland to roll up their sleeves and tackle the litter that is blighting their towns and countryside.
When the campaign started in 2010, just over 2,400 people got involved in litter picks – by last year, the numbers had swelled to 26,000 and this spring we are aiming for an ambitious 50,000 volunteers to join our green army.
Launching the campaign, Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: "I fully support initiatives like Big Spring Clean, which make such a significant contribution to making our environment more attractive for both tourists and local people alike."
Among the litter heroes at the launch were supporters representing a wide cross-section of society.
Local schools, community groups, uniformed youth, Mencap, RSPB, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Northern Ireland Water, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, The National Trust and businesses including Belfast International Airport, Sainsbury's, Coca-Cola and McDonald's are all rolling up their sleeves to make Northern Ireland a brighter place .
Belfast Telegraph managing editor Paul Connolly said: "It's truly staggering that from just over 2,000 volunteers in 2010, we have now galvanised more than 10 times that number to get involved in the Big Spring Clean campaign and are eyeing a target of 50,000 for this year.
"The good thing about this campaign is that everyone supports it. There are literally no losers – apart from the litter louts and the fly-tippers.
"It's a wonderful cause, and the Belfast Telegraph is proud to be part of it."
To join the Big Spring Clean is easy. All you need to do is register an event or join an existing event online at www.bigspringcleanni.org, order your free clean-up kit and get stuck in. Don't forget to tell us how successful your event was afterwards. For more, check out the website, email info@bigspringclean ni.org or contact Tidy NI directly on 028 9073 6920.