Belfast Telegraph

One truly spirited spruce-up: Staff from Bushmills Distillery join locals to lift litter galore on strand

By Philip Baillie and Sarah Rainey

From children’s toys to fishing nets, car tyres and bicycle parts, Northern Ireland’s beaches are littered with all kinds of unusual waste.

As part of our Big Spring Clean, volunteers from up and down the country have donned their wellies and scoured the sand to help clear up the seaside.

The sun shone over Portballintrae Bay yesterday as a group of residents and staff from the nearby Bushmills Distillery took on the challenge of cleaning up the beach.

With its scenic harbour and coastal cottages, the town is a popular holiday spot for tourists and locals — but the summer months leave the area strewn with rubbish.

Family barbecues, picnics and dog walkers often leave behind waste that makes the beach look untidy and can cause serious injury to wildlife.

Armed with litter-pickers and recycling bags from Coleraine Borough Council, keen volunteers tackled the rubbish to return the area to its natural beauty.

Joyce Ferder, chairwoman of the Portballintrae Residents’ Association, said it was great to see local people taking pride in their community.

“It is sad how much waste gets washed up or dumped on a beach as beautiful as this,” she said.

“A lot of the rubbish is hidden in crevices of rocks and people don’t realise how much there is until they start to look. There are loads of bins, so it is just a matter of educating people that this is for their own pleasure and enjoyment of nature.”

Together with a team from Tidy NI, the Co Antrim volunteers got to work on the main harbour and the grassy bank outside the iconic Bayview Hotel.

A stiletto heel, tape measure, rusted pipe and part of a pink snorkel were among the more interesting finds on the strand.

Patricia Magee from Tidy NI said holidaymakers were often the worst culprits for dropping litter on the beach or flushing it down toilets.

“A lot of the rubbish here is marine waste that comes in from sewage out at sea,” she added.

“There is also litter from people who come to the beach and leave their empty bottles and wrappers behind.

“It’s great to see a partnership between local businesses and community groups, as it encourages people to take pride in their environment.”

Jim Allen, environment officer from Coleraine Borough Council, said cleaning up the beach was a full-time job for local volunteers.

“This is a peculiar beach because of its shape, so anything that is washed into the bay gets trapped on the rocks,” he said.

“While a few people would leave rubbish here, there is a lot swept in from anglers and fishermen out at sea.

“The worst beaches are those that allow cars onto them — people will have a picnic and leave their portable barbecues sitting there red-hot.”

After two hours’ intensive work on the beach, helpers were invited back to the Diageo Bushmills Distillery for a hearty lunch.

Tour guide Peter Wilson, who found three large bags of rubbish, said it was “amazing” how much the group had picked up.

“We have found bottles, wrappers, fishing nets and other marine equipment,” he said.

“The stuff that has washed up on this beach is unbelievable and the shape of the bay makes it particularly susceptible to it.

“It is so important to understand just how much of an eyesore rubbish can be and how |much damage it can do to local wildlife.”

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