It will take 500 years for 546 pieces of rubbish unearthed at a Co Antrim school to break down.
The haul at Parkhall Primary School in Antrim included seven vodka bottles, one gin bottle and three other glass bottles which will never decompose.
In all, 365 crisp and sweet packets, each taking 500 years to break down, 67 plastic bags, taking 500 years to decompose, 79 polystyrene fast food containers, each taking 100 years to disappear, and 35 drinks cans, each taking 100 years to decompose, were collected by the students.
All 546 pieces of rubbish were found in the space of just one hour by the children cleaning up the grounds of their school.
When they started their after-school environment club the kids of Parkhall Primary School hadn’t thought much about litter and the effect it has on their surroundings.
But when the Belfast Telegraph went along as part of our Big Clean-Up campaign, it became evident that the children have been converted into confirmed green warriors.
As well as the rubbish listed above — much of it tossed over the fence from a neighbouring path — they discovered part of a cricket bat, a baby seat, the leg of a plastic patio table, part of a bed frame, a PE bag and a brush.
Since they started the club a year ago with funding from the Extended Schools Programme, they have made all sorts of astonishing finds, including a buggy, scooter, a hammer and discarded car trim.
According to Helen Tomb from Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland, who has been working with the pupils since the club started, they’ve carried out all sorts of green activities, but strangely enough the one thing that really captured the imagination was litter picking.
“They’ve planted trees, they’ve planted a hedge and wild flowers and built a willow dome.
“We did a before and after quiz on the environment and this scheme has really improved their knowledge — they knew more than they did when they started,” she said.
“One thing they really liked to do was lift the litter and they were always very keen on keeping the playground very tidy.”
She added: “People have been going out of their way to chuck litter over the fence into the school grounds — we’ve had beds and armchairs. People are coming right up to the fence and throwing it in.
“We’ve had vodka bottles and wrappers. We even had one father coming to pick up the kids who put the vodka into a coke bottle and threw the vodka bottle over the wall.”
The environment club has now come to a close as the funding ran out after a year but the school is hoping to secure more in September.
“The children have seen both sides of the litter problem. At the start we were asking them questions, ‘do you throw litter on the grounds?’ and they were very honest and said yes. By the end of the project they were saying ‘we should pick that up, it’s disgusting and it’s damaging the trees’,” she said.