Plastic main culprit as survey finds Northern Ireland beach litter is at a record high
Litter on Northern Ireland beaches is at its highest recorded level, an environmental charity has warned.
Plastic is the biggest issue - making up nearly 80% of the waste.
A new report by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful reveals marine litter surveyors recorded 625 pieces of litter per 100 metres of beach in 2018 - the highest average since the surveys began in 2012.
Plastic makes up over 78% of the waste, including many 'single use' items such as drinks bottles and food wrappers.
There were also many short pieces of blue string and rope, which are likely to have come from the fishing industry.
The surveys are carried out four times a year by trained volunteers across 10 'reference' beaches around our coasts.
The worst affected were at Rathlin Island, Ballyhornan in Co Down, and Runkerry Strand in Co Antrim.
The surveys are funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).
David Small, head of DAERA's Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group, said: "Marine litter pollution is a massive problem and one which can only be addressed by everyone playing their part.
"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."
Every one of the 10 beaches were cleaned within two weeks of the survey by a range of volunteers, including families, local groups and schools. Nearly 3,000 volunteers were involved in cleaning up the beaches, and in 2018 they collected more than a million pieces of litter.
Over 5,000 bags of litter were removed.
Dr Jade Berman from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: "There is a surge of interest in people wanting to get out and clean up their local areas.
"Doing good feels good and doing good together feels even better.
"There are many amazing groups out there and people are thinking more about using a refillable bottle and taking their own homemade packed lunch to work or school to reduce their waste."