The Belfast Telegraph's Big Spring Clean has been a roaring success!
Last year we exceeded our goal to galvanise 12,500 people across Northern Ireland into rolling up their sleeves and tackling the litter blighting their towns and countryside.
This year we set our sights much higher, aiming to get 25,000 people involved — and we’ve beaten that goal as well! That means next year we want to get even more ambitious by persuading an incredible 50,000 men, women and children to clean up the litter hotspots.
Everyone from nursery school children to groups like the one calling itself Last of the Summer Wine played their part, along with scouts, churches, football clubs, GAA and camogie clubs.
And it seems the burgeoning campaign, of the past three years, is paying dividends on the ground.
Eric Rainey, who helped clean up Cloughey Beach when the campaign kicked off in 2010, noticed a definite drop in the number of plastic bags they filled with litter this year. And Lawrence Speight, of Operation Noah, which cleaned up Lough Navar in Fermanagh found the number of bags they collected had dropped from a whopping 30 to six.
And some of the finds have been truly astonishing — from a 5,000-year-old scraper tool discarded on Rathlin by one of our ancestors to fuel laundering paraphernalia and bags of decaying animal parts in the Sperrins. Volunteers have also come across a dead sheep, a sharps box full of syringes, road barriers, discarded carpet and lino, a car bonnet and even bedroom furniture.
The Big Spring Clean campaign was a major push by the Belfast Telegraph, Tidy Northern Ireland and DOE Rethink Waste to persuade tens of thousands of people to tackle the litter blighting their areas throughout the month of April.
The tally so far — and there are a few more clean-ups to go — is 25,803 volunteers carrying out 248 clean-ups, and gathering 26,724 bags of litter weighing 160,344 kilos — that’s just over 160 tonnes.
Tidy NI director Ian Humphreys said he believes the final tally will exceed 27,000 volunteers.
“Tidy NI is delighted and everyone who participated should feel very proud of their achievements,” he said.
“The level of volunteer activity has doubled at a time when many voluntary groups say it is difficult to find those willing to help.
“That this campaign is growing so rapidly is something to celebrate.
“All ages have been involved and we’ve had intergenerational groups with whole families getting involved. We’ve had 342 councillors and MLAs, not only supporting the campaign, but many have gone out and some even organised their own clean-ups.
“People are realising there is a lot more we can do together to make this the best place to live in.
“People are showing they love where they live and they are doing something about it. They are not moaning about things — they are just going out and making it better.
“It is very encouraging that we in Northern Ireland can make this a better place not only for ourselves, but visitors who will want to come and businesses will want to invest here.
“I want to thank every one of the 25,000 plus people who took part. And I really do want to thank the Belfast Telegraph for promoting what is a positive news story. Often the media gets put upon for selling bad news but this is a very, very positive story,” he added.
“The Belfast Telegraph has to take a lot of the credit for the fact that the numbers have doubled this year.
“I want to thank the DOE led by Alex Attwood — who supported the clean-up, has been out on a clean-up himself and for sending his staff out — as well as the department funding the clean-up kits that everyone is using.”