Landfill at its lowest ever in Northern Ireland as 48% of homes recycle waste
Northern Ireland's household recycling rate has increased to over 48% while landfill rates are the lowest ever recorded, new figures show.
The Environmental Statistics report also reveals that illegal dumping of waste continues to be a top environmental concern here, followed by pollution in rivers (28%), litter (28%), climate change (27%) and traffic congestion (27%).
Top actions taken by households to reduce waste included the re-use of plastic bags, the use of energy saving lightbulbs and the re-use of clothes and furniture, whilst 1.1 million fewer plastic bags were dispensed to consumers in 2017/18.
Of the 21 lakes monitored in Northern Ireland last year, five achieved a "good" standard when classified while drinking water quality compliance remains at over 99%.
There has also been an increase of 49% since 2008 in the wild bird population but a 12% decrease in wetland birds.
A 21% growth in population in Northern Ireland since 1971 was highlighted, with future projections indicating a continuing increase over the next 20-25 years.
Head of DAERA's Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group, David Small, said: "We are delighted with the figures in relation to household recycling and landfill, however the statistics also reveal issues in the wider environment including some reports which suggest an increase in the average temperature since the beginning of the 20th Century, and the fact that 71% of litter along our coasts is made of plastic.
"We need to be mindful of the increasing pressures on our environment including those posed by a growing population.
"It is crucial that we continue to find ways to ensure our lifestyle choices don't impact negatively on the environment, and the resources we depend on such as water, air, food and energy.
"That is why we will shortly be launching a discussion paper on how to deliver a better environment for Northern Ireland."
He added: "We must take the necessary steps to protect our environment while developing our economy in a sustainable way.
"Caring for our natural resources will deliver huge benefits for everyone, not least future generations.
"Ultimately, health and prosperity depend on our natural environment.
"Achieving economic growth at the cost of its degradation is not sustainable.
"I hope everyone will contribute to this important discussion paper," Mr Small added.
Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey said the report shows that people care about the environment and want to play a part in addressing climate breakdown.
"Citizens can only do so much. It's up to governments to address the issue at every level and make the just transition towards a sustainable economic model," she said. "Corporations must be forced to play their role in addressing climate breakdown.
"It's not good enough for governments to tell families to recycle yoghurt pots while turning a blind eye to big business churning out millions of tonnes of single use plastics and ripping fossil fuels out of the ground to everyone's detriment," she added.