Belfast Telegraph

It’s Poots in boots as minister joins litter patrol

By Linda Stewart

From the road it’s a tranquil green glen, divided into rolling meadows by copses of trees and a babbling brook.

But as Environment Minister Edwin Poots discovered yesterday, take a closer look and the paths are carpeted with broken glass, the brook is clogged with bottles and plastic bags and the meadows are dotted with black burnt patches where wheelie bins have been set on fire.

At weekends, street drinkers converge on the glen opposite the Dairy Farm in Poleglass and the area erupts into mayhem. And it’s the hardworking Conservation Volunteers team responsible for clearing up the mess left behind.

Yesterday, the minister joined forces with the Belfast Telegraph, Tidy NI and Conservation Volunteers to see for himself the massive challenges in trying to eradicate litter from Ulster’s streets.

The Belfast Telegraph is tackling the litter eyesores that blight towns and countrysides across Ulster by persuading owners to clear up sites, tackling them ourselves or inspiring others to take action in their local areas.

Martin Neeson, of Conservation Volunteers, said the site, which backs onto Laurel Bank housing estate, has been plagued with street drinkers for some time.

“Hail, rain, sleet or snow, they will be there. There are times it can be really bad, especially in summer — they would bring picnics with them. It has been a bad spot for quite some time,” he said.

“We found three trailer loads of tyres last week — they dump them at the sides of roads.”

Among the litter spotted yesterday were plastic bags, broken glass scattered along the paths and bridge, vodka bottles clogging the brook, two dumped bicycles, used nappies and a pram wheel high in the branches of a tree. Within minutes the team had gathered more than 30 bin bags of waste.

A full wheelie bin had been dragged on to the grass and set on fire, leaving a blackened heap of ashes and refuse.

The minister said the litter problem in the area has frequently been discussed at council level.

“Two issues spring to mind — the first is cultural. People need to adopt a culture of pride in their own areas that doesn’t involve throwing away all kinds of waste, from plastic bags and bottles to nappies and crisp packets, all sorts of waste,” Mr Poots said.

“This needs to change to a culture of taking it home and putting it in the appropriate bin.

“The other issue is people engaged in flytipping. Councils need to be proactive in prosecuting such individuals.

“In the short term it may not be cost-effective but in the long term it would be cost-effective if the message got through that people were being prosecuted for illegally dumping waste.

“Today we found lots of beer bottles, plastic drinking bottles, pram wheels — there were various shafts of brushes lying around. Most of these could be recycled, never mind going to waste. Most of them had a recycling value but they’re adding no value to the community here when they’re going into twigs and bushes and lying here.”

Ian Humphreys of Tidy NI said many litterers probably have beautifully maintained homes.

“In some parts of Northern Ireland it’s the cultural norm to drop litter,” he said. “This impacts upon people’s health and quality of life.”

Let us know what you’re doing to clean up your area or notify us of litter hotspots that need tackled by contacting us at bigcleanup@ belfasttelegraph.co.uk.

Our manifesto

We want to get the eyesores that are blighting Northern Ireland cleaned up.

WHAT WE WILL DO: We will document the litter hotspots you highlight and ask the authorities to take immediate action.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Email the details of what you have found to bigcleanup@belfasttelegraph.co.uk. Or write to us at Newsdesk, Belfast Telegraph, 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast BT1 1EB.

Let us know what you and your community are doing

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