We asked if we could count you in to our Big Spring Clean – and the answer was a resounding 'yes'.
This year we set ourselves the ambitious target of galvanising 100,000 people into action to clean up the places they love. And we did it.
Our Big Spring Clean campaign, in partnership with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and DoE Rethink Waste is now Northern Ireland's biggest clean-up.
Last year more than 50,000 people rolled up their sleeves and cleared litter from their towns and countryside – and this spring a staggering 105,819 people turned out to join the cause.
That's enough volunteers to fill the Odyssey Arena more than 10 times over. They collected 21,139 bags of litter, which weighed in at a massive 127 tonnes, the same weight as 19 African elephants. Those who were able to separate their waste gathered 6,283 bags of recyclable material such as plastic bottles, while 14,856 yellow bags of other rubbish were brought in to be picked up by staff from our 26 councils.
In total, our green army has given 12 years of their time to collecting litter, which is how long it would take Jupiter to orbit the Sun.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan, paying tribute to the huge effort put in by the volunteers, said: "Over 100,000 volunteers helping to clean up our environment is truly impressive. I would like to thank each and every one of them for getting involved in the Big Spring Clean.
"We are blessed with some of the best landscapes anywhere on our shores, but the blight from litter is a real damaging distraction. So the volunteers' work is truly impressive in addressing that and also sends out a clear message to those who thoughtlessly throw away to start thinking about the damage they do.
"I strongly encourage more and more people to volunteer for the Big Spring Clean.
"To the growing green army of volunteers – many, many thanks, and keep up the good work.
"I commend Keep NI Beautiful for this sterling initiative. We in DoE are proud to provide financial support helping deliver the phenomenal growth of this campaign and ensuring they can continue to support volunteers on the ground. Our own volunteers are also regularly out there filling bag after bag.
"Well done, too, to the Belfast Telegraph for putting their weight behind the Big Spring Clean every year."
Dr Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep NI Beautiful, said: "This is proof that most people are extremely proud of where they live. It is proof they are willing to stand up and be counted as people who will do something positive to clean up where we live.
"And from the impact we have seen, it is proof we will change the behaviour of the small number of litter louts and dog owners that currently don't seem to care."
Belfast Telegraph Editor Mike Gilson said: "This really is an incredible result for the Big Spring Clean campaign and it's heartening to see that so many people are prepared to step up.
"I'd like to thank all of our readers who took part. The Belfast Telegraph is delighted to help run this campaign and showcase the fantastic efforts that go into keeping this country spick and span.
"Well done also to all at Keep NI Beautiful whose organisation and campaigning zeal is second to none."
Actor Charlie Lawson, who helped to launch this year's campaign, said it was a brilliant result.
"It was great to be part of the launch and I am so pleased that the people of Northern Ireland have helped to smash the target – It shows just how proud we are of our wee country," he said.
And sports presenter Denise Watson said: "I have two children and they've been taught to always respect the environment. Campaigns like this help them understand how important it is to clean up after themselves. I'm so pleased with the success of it."
For more information on clean-up campaigns, contact Nicola Murray at Keep NI Beautiful on 028 9073 6920 or email nicola.murray@keepnorthern irelandbeautiful.org.