Belfast Telegraph

Our volunteer army springs into action to beat litterbugs

By Linda Stewart

Butterflies and bumblebees were lured out by this week’s burst of sunshine — and so were the litterbugs.

At least that was the discovery made by a host of litter heroes who gathered in south Belfast for the launch of Big Spring Clean week.

Around 50 friends and supporters of the Big Spring Clean breakfasted at Malone House before rolling up their sleeves, grabbing litter pickers and heading out into the April sunshine to scour the Lagan towpath and its surrounding network of paths.

The campaign by the Belfast Telegraph, Tidy Northern Ireland and DOE Rethink Waste is picking up speed, now looking well on course for 100 clean-up events and thousands of volunteers during Big Spring Week, which runs until April 17. The number of people who registered their support for the campaign has now surged to more than 18,000 — a sevenfold increase on last year’s total.

Some of yesterday’s green heroes even set off after the early morning clean-up to carry out litter picks in other parts of Northern Ireland, including Donna Rainey and Selena Archibald who were planning to tackle the Portstewart to Portrush coastal path, before carrying out a huge blitz today with the help of Glenullin GAA.

Among yesterday’s litter heroes were Padraig McDonnell and Eimear Hollywood from St Malachy’s PS, Carnagat, who were among 258 pupils to stage a clean-up in the Newry area, and Jordan Hazlett of Voices of Young People in Care, who described the |damage that littering can do to a community. Supporters from the RSPB, Conservation Volunteers NI, Business In The Community, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Coca Cola and McDonalds also cleared litter.

Among the volunteers yesterday was Environment Minister Edwin Poots, who tackled the car park at Shaw’s Bridge, which had been left overflowing with rubbish after the balmy weather of the day before. He pointed out that councils last year spent £34m in ratepayers’ money cleaning up other people’s mess, money that could be well spent elsewhere. “We need to make throwing down waste and scattering litter something that is seen as anti-social behaviour and something that is frowned upon by the vast majority of people,” he said.

“Northern Ireland needs to be a cleaner place for ourselves and a cleaner place for tourists.

“The success of last year’s Big Spring Clean has shown that the people of Northern Ireland care about where they live and take a lot of pride in their local environment. By supporting Tidy Northern Ireland we can all make a difference, no matter how small, to protect and improve our environment and help make Northern Ireland a better place to live, work and invest.”

Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson outlined how the newspaper’s Big Clean-Up had prompted readers to write in with shocking examples of places that had been blighted by flytipping.

“We’ve had before and after pictures of some of these places in the paper, and it’s amazing when you see what a few hours’ of work can do to transform a rubbish site to a clean site,” he said.

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