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Rural Areas in Serious Need of Summer Love

David McCann   Fri 22 Jun 2018

The image conjured up when you hear the words ‘summer’ and ‘countryside’ is normally one of rolling green hills, quiet country roads and hedgerows bustling with wildlife, but when tourists visit one of our rural areas they are likely to encounter a much different scene – one filled with rubbish.

The most recent Cleaner Neighbourhoods Report published by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful shows that 39% of rural roads surveyed across the country failed to meet the accepted standard for litter in 2017/18. This is 13 times higher than the 3% of transects that failed in city and town centres.

While no data was collected to show the frequency of littering events in these areas and whether one was higher than the other, it is clear that city and town areas are cleansed on a much more frequent basis than their rural counterparts. Most Councils dispatch cleansing teams to their towns and cities on a daily basis, but some country roads are only cleaned once every six months and even less than that in some cases.

According to a recent NISRA bulletin, there have never been more tourists coming to Northern Ireland, with an estimated 2.7 million overnight trips from external visitors in 2017 contributing a massive £657 million to the local economy. With the route between our two most visited attractions involving travel along rural roads, tourists are almost guaranteed to catch an eyeful of our littered hedgerows, perhaps making that return trip all the less likely.

Freddie Harris, the Cleaner Neighbourhoods Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said “The case for keeping our country clean is clear cut. The results from our surveys show that rural litter is a real problem and it will have a real impact on both our environment and our economy. It is sad that some people are so inconsiderate that they don’t recognise the damage even one small piece of litter can do to our environment. All of our waste ends up somewhere and sadly in most cases it is our beautiful countryside that is bearing the brunt.

Studies have shown that litter can have an adverse effect on tourism and it is really important that our local authorities are proactive in keeping the greenest parts of our province beautiful for the millions of visitors to enjoy.

While we understand that limited resources may have to be stretched thin, the indirect costs of littering can spiral into the hundreds of millions of pounds with negative effects on property values, crime rates and mental health. We are ready and willing to help our local Councils alleviate this issue as much as possible and for us that starts with litter prevention through a variety of public engagement, behaviour change and awareness programmes.”