Bright white snowdrops are starting to emerge from beneath the icy mud and that can mean only one thing — the launch of our Big Spring Clean-Up campaign.
Once again we’ve teamed up with Tidy Northern Ireland to get out there and get our hands dirty clearing up the broken glass, drinks cans, plastic bags and worse that is littering our towns and countryside.
Last spring a staggering 2,400 people across Northern Ireland rolled up their sleeves, grabbed their litter pickers and set to work scouring away the ugly litter that is blighting our communities.
Now we’re calling for even more people to join our ‘green army’, organising clean-ups for the Big Spring Clean-Up event running from April 8 to 17.
In January Environment Minister Edwin Poots was the first MLA to offer his support for the green campaign, including financial support from his department’s Rethink Waste scheme — and, in just two weeks, some 97 councillors and 22 MLAs have joined our call.
As the campaign unfolds, we intend to draw in elected representatives from across the political spectrum and organisations crossing the community divide — along with schools, churches, community groups, youth organisations, sporting organisations and businesses.
Nobody should feel like they can’t play a part in keeping Northern Ireland green and beautiful.
We’re also calling on the showbiz and sporting celebrities who hail from Northern Ireland to come forward and support the campaign.
All 26 of Northern Ireland’s councils are offering help to anyone who wants to organise a clean-up, including the loan of litter pickers, protective gear and waste collection service.
The first port of call for anyone wanting to join a clean-up or organise one themselves is the Tidy NI website at www.tidynorthernireland.org/big-spring-clean, for lots of information on where events are happening, what you need to do if you’re organising one and who can help.
And as the momentum builds, everyone in Northern Ireland should be able to take part in a Big Spring Clean-Up event in their own area.
Each clean-up will be a push in the right direction towards changing attitudes, making Northern Ireland a more attractive place for tourism and inward investment and cutting the £34 million-a-year clean-up bill to the ratepayer.
The good work has already started — this week, a horde of keen schoolchildren braved lashing rain to team up with local volunteers and clean up a litter hotspot on the Ballinderry River in Cookstown in an event supported by local landowners.
The students from Holy Trinity College gathered bag after bag of takeaway cartons, drinks containers and other detritus, cleaning up a tranquil stretch of woodland upstream from the Glenavon Weir.
Meanwhile, school caretaker Eddie Black spent his lunch break paddling along the river in a kayak in search of rubbish that had become entangled in overhanging tree branches.
A discarded oil drum, tyre, steak knife and even a used nappy were among the offensive items found blighting the beauty spot and cleared up by volunteers from the school, RSPB, WWF, Tidy NI and Care for the River Environment (CURE) group to mark World Wetlands Day.
CURE volunteer Mark Horton said much of the rubbish seems to come from drivers throwing bags of rubbish off the bridge which carries one of the town’s main roads.
“It all ends up flowing down the river and ends up deposited along the banks.
“Today we found takeaway cartons, bottles and cans, chip bags, an oil drum, a tyre and even part of an old oven,” he said.
“It’s not like some of those things just blew there — they obviously got dumped.
“All along the river are hotspots, either where people have been fly-tipping or where things just accumulated — this site appears to be a bit of both.”
To find out more about getting involved in the campaign, visit www.tidynorthernireland.org/big-spring-clean for details of events, where to find help and what to do next.