Sea of filth: raging storms and surging tides have dumped a mountain of waste on Northern Ireland's beaches and coastline
This is the shocking legacy of the huge storms that battered our coastline in recent weeks.
A small army of volunteers has been working tirelessly to keep our beaches clear of litter – but they now face an overwhelming task tackling the mountain of litter washed up on Northern Ireland's shores by 80mph gales and high tides.
The huge storms hurled thousands of tonnes of rubbish on to beaches all round the coast, according to Tidy Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, the pounding waves have battered away shingle and dunes, releasing litter that had been buried for years.
Tidy NI employees carrying out a litter survey of Northern Ireland's coastline this week found oil drums, plastic tubs, part of a car chassis and hundreds of plastic bottles. Meanwhile, hard-working volunteers from Cloughey Development and Community Association turned up an old Ards Borough Council 'No Dumping' sign that had toppled onto the shore following storms and erosion, had been buried by cobbles, but was exposed by this month's gales.
During an intensive blitz of Cloughey Beach on the Ards peninsula last week, they also came across a metal milk crate – an item which has not been in circulation for many years.
"The litter was not characteristic of what is usually found on this beach and was obviously shifted by wind and waves from other parts of the Irish Sea and coast," Tidy NI director Ian Humphreys said.
"This winter, gale force storms and surging tides have dumped thousands of tonnes of litter along our coastline.
"Our oceans, acting as a vast repository of rubbish, have been forced by the elements to disgorge their contents onto our shorelines."
Tidy NI employee Nicola Murray, who visited Minerstown and Tyrella beaches in Co Down for the litter survey, said: "I could have cried when I saw the state of Minerstown. It was the worst that I had ever seen it.
"It was the amount of plastic litter that was so shocking. There were easily hundreds of pieces of plastic. There were lots of oil drums, lots of plastic tubs and some fish boxes."
The Clean Coast Programme sponsored by Coca-Cola supports local people who are passionate about caring for our coastline. For further information contact Nicola Murray on firstname.lastname@example.org