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There are an estimated 11,983,664 items of litter polluting Northern Ireland at all times, according to the findings within a local report funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has revealed the figure in its Litter Composition Analysis Report 2022-23, following surveys of 1,100 rural and urban roads across all local council areas between November 2022 and February 2023.

Analysing all forms of litter including drinks containers, dog fouling and confectionery packaging, the report establishes that producers from the soft drinks, chocolate and chewing gum industries command 64 per cent of all branded litter found around the province. It has also been identified that Coca-Cola HBC Ltd, Red Bull GmbH, Mondelez Europe, and AG Barr products make up 50 per cent of the branded litter problem, and that 54 per cent of the total litter recorded is made from plastic.

Vaping products have emerged as almost two per cent of the litter problem, placing them on a par with perennial litter offenders like coffee cups and food waste. And cigarette-butts remain a significant threat to the environment, with a predicted 1,194,692 butts scattered throughout communities in Northern Ireland, accounting for ten per cent of the overall litter slice.

Chris Gourley, Waste and Pollution Solutions Strategic Lead at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “Our report highlights that Northern Ireland has a severe litter problem. Understanding the composition of litter is a sensible step in putting forward credible solutions.

“It is particularly concerning that most of the litter recorded was single use plastic, but this does help to highlight how crucial it is for Northern Ireland to move towards a circular economy in which the life cycle of products is extended as far as possible, resulting in less waste in circulation. Whilst we recognise that legislative change is on the way, including Extended Producer Responsibility beginning from next year, and a Deposit Return Scheme from 2025, more needs to be done to educate, engage and empower. We strongly believe that with continued collaboration and contribution from producers, policymakers, politicians and the public, we can deliver change.”

Lesley Roberts, Head of Waste Prevention Policy at DAERA said: “DAERA remains committed to tackling the problem of littering and will continue to work with stakeholders to advance our anti-litter agenda. DAERA uses a combined approach of legislation, education, awareness and enforcement to tackle littering, and provide funding to support programmes which challenge litter-habits directly as well as changing attitudes and behaviours towards litter.

In December 2022, the Department successfully implemented new legislation which gave local Councils discretionary powers to increase the maximum fixed penalty notice fine from £80 to £200 for litter and dog fouling offences in their council area.”

The Litter Composition Analysis Report 2022-23 is the second litter producer-focused study published by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, following a similar Litter Composition Producer Report released by the charity in 2021. Both reports are part of a wider project funded by DAERA to address the production, consumption and littering of single-use plastic in Northern Ireland.

To read the Litter Composition Analysis Report 2022-23 in full, visit www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org/litter-composition-reports.