Belfast Telegraph

Alex Attwood launches strategy to tackle marine litter 

Stormont Executive press release - Department of the Environment

Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, today published the first ever strategy here to address levels of marine litter in Northern Ireland.

The new marine litter strategy will tackle the levels of litter on our coasts arising from human activity, deliberately discarded or unintentionally lost, which end up in the sea, on beaches and coastlines.

A key thrust of the strategy will be to seek a sea change in people’s minds towards how we address marine litter. The recent lorry loads of litter dumped on Portstewart beach are a vivid reminder of the challenge. 

The strategy aims to increase awareness of the need to remove litter at our seaside resorts and the damage caused if we don’t. Young people will be targeted with a new Rubbish Monster book to try and win over our future generations.

Commenting on the Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy, Minister Attwood said: “Northern Ireland is leading the way in these islands by being first to develop a strategy to address the problem of litter on our coasts. 

“We need to change mindsets here. Years ago people ‘had a drink for the road’ before driving. A year ago people always asked for a carrier bag when shopping which often ended up littering our landscapes. So habits can change. More education is required. More volunteers will be encouraged.

“The strategy is a co-ordinated approach to reducing the levels of litter in the marine environment, through education, awareness-raising and volunteering programs, along with promoting a strong system of enforcement against those who just don’t get the message that litter is unacceptable.

“I particularly welcome the emphasis on young people and the creation of a new ‘Rubbish Monster’ book. President Obama said earlier this month that young people are the key to securing future peace. Well young people are also the key for our beaches to be clean and our seas to be litter free in the future.”

The strategy will be implemented through partnerships between public, private and voluntary and community organisations. This will help ensure the problem of marine litter is addressed at a local level while the strategic direction provided by the strategy will ensure that the problem is addressed at a Northern Ireland level.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of TidyNI, said: “This document cleverly balances actions to do something about the litter already out there with actions that will prevent more of this unsightly stuff being dropped. By recognising the need for society-wide behaviour change it is the strongest lead yet to creating a culture where people love where they live. 

“The economic gains that will come from such a strategy will benefit us all through limiting rate rises, increasing tourist spend and attracting greater inward investment.”

DOE will co-ordinate implementation of the strategy and provide on-going support to delivery partners and stakeholders. Progress on implementing the strategy will be reported to the Good Beach Summit. 

Notes to editors:

1. The majority of litter found on Northern Ireland’s beaches is made up of plastics and includes: plastic bottles; food wrappers; carrier bags; cotton buds and sanitary products; and fishing debris which have been dropped on land and at sea.

3. Plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. The ingestion of plastic particles and entanglement in marine litter can be a significant source of mortality for many marine species.

4. Marine litter is a global problem. Plastic tags washed up on our shores have travelled thousands of miles on the ocean currents, across the Atlantic from North America.

5. The strategy seeks to build on the strengths of existing measures and maximises opportunities to address the levels of litter present on the coastal and marine environment. It has two strategic goals: reducing the levels of litter entering the marine environment and the removal of litter from the marine environment. 

6.The strands within strategic goal 1 are: learning and communication to effect behavioural change towards the appropriate disposal of litter, backed up by effective enforcement of statutory deterrents and supported by appropriate coastal infrastructure. It also recognises that accurate and reliable data is essential to manage the problem and monitor progress in implementing both the strategy and Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

7. Responsibility for implementing the strategy will be shared between DOE, councils, schools and the voluntary and community sector.

8. The strategy will be formally reviewed in 2015 and will finish in 2020. The strategy is sufficiently flexible to allow for the inclusion of additional measures outside of the formal review process.

9. Information on the development of the strategy and its implementation is available from the Department’s website

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