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UK's filthiest beaches found in Northern Ireland

By Linda Stewart

Published 01/07/2016

Ballyhornan Strand was among the beaches cleaned up by volunteers last year
Ballyhornan Strand was among the beaches cleaned up by volunteers last year

Northern Ireland has the dirtiest beaches in the UK, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

During a major clean-up of hundreds of beaches across the UK last year, beaches here were found to have the highest litter density, with an average of 6,695 items per kilometre.

The second worst was Wales, where investigators recorded an average of 3,820 items per kilometre.

The clean-up saw volunteers roll up their sleeves and clear litter from seven beaches across Northern Ireland - Brown's Bay, Rathlin Island, Ballyhornan Strand, Kilkeel, Murlough and Culmore Point.

Around 135 people joined in the mission here, and the MCS is calling for even more volunteers this year.

The organisation warned that without enough volunteers, beaches could return to the sorry state that they languished in for so many years.

It said that during the Great Northern Ireland Beach Clean in 2015, people had found a huge range of items, including syringes, ceramics, fence posts and even bicycles.

Prior to that, in 2011, approximately 450 volunteers cleaned 23 beaches.

Urging a big push this time round, the MCS insisted that the more beaches that were cleaned and surveyed, the clearer the litter picture would become.

This is in turn gives the charity the information that it needs to work with industry and the public to prevent beaches from being spoiled.

MCS Beachwatch manager Lauren Eyles said it was vital that more beaches across the region were covered.

"As a charity, we rely very heavily on volunteer support, either at events or financially," she explained.

"The Great Northern Ireland Beach Clean is a great way for our supporters to get hands-on and really make a difference. We'd love to see more people out on Northern Irish beaches this year and more beaches cleaned."

Litter levels here increased considerably between 2014 and 2015, and the region had the highest litter density in all of the UK, with levels reaching close to where they were in 2012.

Around 7,030 items of litter were collected from a total of seven beaches surveyed during last year's clean-up.

Ian Humphreys, CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said: "It's great that people care enough to go out and not only collect but count the litter to help understand how to address the different types of litter that are landing on our beaches in high numbers.

"The fact that plastic is one of the biggest pollutants on the beaches shows that we need to be dealing better with plastics."

  • This year's MCS Great Northern Irish Beach Clean takes place from September 16-19. To get involved in the event visit or telephone 01989 566017.

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