Belfast Telegraph

'Struggle' to clear beach litter

Thousands of pieces of litter dropped by Northern Ireland beach-goers enjoying the good weather has left the authorities struggling to cope.

Cigarette lighters and crisp packets, plastic bottles and drinks cans spoiled some of the region's lesser known but scenic sands. More than 4,000 pieces of refuse per average kilometre were counted across Northern Ireland.

Most bags of rubbish were collected from Kilkeel and Ballyhornan in Co Down, TIDY Northern Ireland said.

A spokesman added: "The amount of drinks-related litter highlights the problem in Northern Ireland with inconsiderate people enjoying our beaches and not having the decency to remove their litter. Every one of the 4,033 pieces/km originated with people discarding their litter somewhere other than a bin. Recent good weather has resulted in huge strain on councils and other beach operators, who have struggled to cope with the mounds of litter left behind."

This was the first systematic survey of waste on the shores of 14 beaches, conducted every three months from Limavady via Rathlin Island to Warrenpoint.

Over the first nine months of the TIDY Northern Ireland survey, from last September, an average of 4,033 pieces of litter per kilometre were counted. Nearly three quarters was plastic, and it included cigarette lighters, crisp packets, pieces of rope, string and plastic bottles.

More than half the metal items were drinks cans. There were 267 pieces of sanitary material such as cotton buds.

The north coast had more litter in general, with small pieces of plastic and cotton bud sticks around four times more common than on the eastern seaboard.

TIDY Northern Ireland chief executive Ian Humphreys said: "We need to tackle the pervasive littering behaviour that has contributed to the figures in this report. TIDY Northern Ireland is calling for a joined up anti-littering/civic pride campaign; if we take this seriously we can increase tourism, generate inward investment and protect the environment as well as save millions of pounds in rates bills spent annually for clean-ups."

Environment Minister Mark Durkan said raising public awareness was the only guaranteed way to reduce marine litter. "A combination of education, provision of adequate waste reception facilities and enforcement of legislation is needed to tackle beach litter," he said. "Beach cleans are an excellent public participation exercise, focusing the public's attention on the issue of marine litter and creating a sense of environmental responsibility."

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