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More resources than ever are being devoted to maintaining a clean and welcoming environment in Northern Ireland, according to the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.

In a report published today, the environmental charity said that 2016-17 had seen a record £43Million spent on cleaning the streets. In response the year ahead will see nine of the eleven councils working together to tackle littering behaviour. Among other figures the charity highlighted was 233 groups ‘adopting a spot’ in order to keep it clean and inviting, and 24,500 children taking part in anti-litter education.

This intensification of efforts by Councils was welcomed by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful CEO, Dr Ian Humphreys, who said “The rising street cleaning bill, being met by ratepayers, is simply unsustainable. This is why many organisations are joining forces to change littering behaviour. Together we can begin to make a difference and this move is being supported by tens of thousands of volunteers who show they live here and love here through clean-ups. With over a third of the public admitting to littering we still have some way to go and so if we want a better place to live we all have to do our bit and get involved.”

While the year saw a slight rise in the percentage of places that were unacceptably littered, it also saw the biggest annual drop in the rates of dog fouling since their surveys began in 2008, and the highest percentage of spaces with no litter – not even a single cigarette butt – at 5%.

One of the surprising facts Dr Humphreys pointed out was that the availability of a bin appears to have little or no impact on the likelihood somewhere will suffer unacceptable littering: “Having a bin in sight in an area makes no statistical difference to how much litter ends up on the ground. This suggests that for many people bins are either deemed irrelevant or invisible. We need to change people’s mind-set so that they look for and use a bin, or take their rubbish home.”

The charity has made a number of recommendations that it believes would go a long way to achieving its vision of a cleaner country.

The charity says that fiscal measures should be explored further as part of a wider system of measures.

The development of programmes that reward desirable behaviour such picking up after your dog have been put forward as ways of preventing littering – like giving a vaccine rather than treating an illness.

Perhaps more controversially, the charity is suggesting that the government and Councils consider introducing American-style parking restrictions, where on-street parking is banned in a particular area for a few hours once a week to allow thorough cleaning; their surveys suggest that mechanical sweepers are regularly prevented from doing their job because of parked cars.

Dr Humphreys concluded “As the evenings lengthen and we look to spend more time outdoors we all want to enjoy spaces free of litter and dog fouling. To achieve this requires us all to do our bit and show we live here and really do love here.”