£3,000 a month clean-up bill as litter louts threaten Blue Flag status of Benone Beach
ONE of Northern Ireland's top beaches could lose its Blue Flag status after a summer-long battle with litter louts.
Counting the cost of trying to contain the litter problem, Limavady Borough Council said it was considering its position in relation to the prestigious awards scheme at Benone Beach.
Benone attracts over 300,000 tourists every summer, but around £3,000 is being spent per month on cleaning the beach every summer because of waste dumped by careless visitors. Some of the items found include disposable barbecues, disposable nappies and glass bottles.
The Co Londonderry beach has won a record 23 consecutive Blue Flags, but today Richard Gillen, countryside officer with the council, said the litter problem was getting harder to control.
"It's disheartening when the behaviour of a small percentage of visitors reduces the quality of beach experience for everyone else and raises questions about the value of putting a site forward for a Blue Flag award," he said.
"We're fortunate to have such great beaches within easy reach and whilst these are public places to be enjoyed that calls for appropriate behaviour and social responsibility all year round and not solely during Blue Flag season.
"Limavady Borough Council supports the Leave No Trace campaign and would ask visitors to do likewise leaving our beaches in a condition that they would expect to find them."
Mr Gillen said it was encouraging to see Northern Ireland's beaches so well used but pointed out that keeping them in the condition people expect took "considerable effort and resource".
The warning from Limavady Borough Council also comes as TIDY Northern Ireland prepares to launch a major report mapping out the extent of litter on Northern Ireland's beaches.
The report is due to be launched at the Good Beach Summit at Crawfordsburn Visitors' Centre next Wednesday.
The Belfast Telegraph has consistently highlighted the problem of litter on our beaches and beauty spots this summer, reporting on how popular areas such as Ballycastle on the north coast and the Sperrins have been blighted by discarded rubbish and overflowing bins.
In July we also revealed how, after a spell of warm weather, 16 pick up truckloads of rubbish were lifted from Portstewart Strand alone.
Following the public outcry, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan (below) recently announced a plan to tackle the problem. He is to urge councils to impose £80 on the spot fines for litterers, organise a series of beach 'summits' and devise a marine litter strategy.
The aim of the Northern Ireland Marine Litter Strategy is to raise awareness of littering, highlight the public's role in looking after our beaches, and ensure the sustainable use of the marine environment for future generations.
Susan Cramer, from the Department of Environment marine policy unit, said: "We need to change our attitude and behaviour towards littering.
"This will be done through education, adequate provision of bins, fining offenders and collecting data on the extent of the problem.
"The strategy is part of the department's work to create prosperity and well-being through environment and heritage excellence, and is linked to other measures like the Waste Management Strategy and Clean Neighbourhoods legislation."
Benone Beach is spending around £100 every day collecting litter. Problems at the popular visitor spot are typical of other Northern Ireland tourist locations this summer. The Belfast Telegraph has consistently highlighted the problem of litter on our beaches and beauty spots. In July we revealed how, after a warm spell, 16 truckloads of rubbish were lifted from Portstewart Strand alone.