The staggering amount of litter dumped in the River Bann has been revealed, with almost 20,000 plastic and glass bottles just some of the items uncovered by one man in eight months.
The deluge of rubbish was fished out of the river by Jon Medlow, who had been voluntarily cleaning the water from September 2019 to April 2020.
The list of items found includes: 800 football, rugby and tennis balls; 120 bin bags of rubbish; 60 pieces of footwear; 45 plastic drums; 22 plastic ducks; 15 traffic cones, 11 shopping trolleys and seven bicycles.
"The River Bann clean-up began in September 2019 after I noticed the excessive amount of litter in my local river weeks previously," said Mr Medlow.
"I purchased a kayak and four-person dinghy, which was attached to and towed by the kayak.
"During my eight-hour shifts on the river the dinghy was filled to capacity each time."
Joining him to get a first-hand glimpse at the extent of the litter was Environment Minister Edwin Poots.
Describing the situation as "appalling", he took to a kayak and helped collect some rubbish.
"I am shocked at the level of pollution, debris and waste in our waterways," said Mr Poots.
"It's obvious that it has a profound and damaging impact on the fish and wildlife using our rivers and on the ecosystem including organisms, plants, grasses and trees near the river banks.
"We all love getting out to enjoy the multiple benefits that our outdoors provides - the pleasant scenery, the exercise and the good feeling we get from being close to nature.
"But, like me, many of you will have witnessed the ugly and damaging impacts of litter and dumped rubbish.
"Many of us are careful but others are selfish and lazy and simply dispose of things without thinking or caring about the effects.
"Those people need to change their ways."
Warning about the damage such action could do to the natural environment, Mr Poots told those responsible to show more care and consideration.
"A plastic straw takes approximately 200 years to decompose, a plastic bottle 450 years, and some plastics never decompose. It is our responsibility to help our environment to thrive," he added.
"I've seen only one river today but it should be enough of a warning to us all, whether it is in rivers, in our forests, on land or on our beaches: dispose of your waste and rubbish correctly, do not fly-tip or drop litter, recycle often, reduce the packaging you use and please protect our natural world and keep it healthy."