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A new report produced by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, highlights the need to bank the gains in the fight against litter.

The Cleaner Neighbourhoods report, which analyses the findings of the 2019 Northern Ireland Litter Survey, provides some encouraging news, showing there were improvements in the levels of litter and dog fouling across Northern Ireland.

The report, which details the results from the 2019 survey period, states that 86% of the streets and public spaces surveyed were deemed to meet an acceptable standard for cleanliness, an improvement on the previous year's results. The levels of dog fouling across Northern Ireland were also found to have declined; in 2019 only 6% of the 1,100 streets, roads and open spaces surveyed had dog fouling present, compared with 10% during the 2018 survey.

The most commonly observed item of litter in Northern Ireland’s streets and public spaces was cigarette butts. These were found to appear across all land use types with 60% of surveyed areas having at least one cigarette butt present, although there were often many more. Drinks containers, including plastic bottles, cans and takeaway coffee cups, were also noted as a recurring issue, observed in 45% of all surveyed areas.

Further Room for Improvement

Although the report indicates a slight reduction in dog fouling levels, it was noted that dog fouling clusters or ‘hotspots’ are still a problem. Streets and public spaces that did have dog fouling present, were found to have had an increased likelihood of having multiple occurrences, with one recreational area surveyed having as many as 9 dog fouls present on a 50m stretch. This supports the idea that a failure to clean up dog fouling is influenced by ‘signalling’, i.e. the presence of dog fouling indicates to other owners that not clearing up after their pet is acceptable in the area.

Rural roads, whilst improving, are still a problem and are disproportionately affected by litter when compared to residential, recreational and retail areas. 24% of rural roads failed to reach an acceptable standard for litter. Rural roads suffer mostly from the presence of plastic bottles, cans and take away coffee cups with 82% of transects having at least one drink container present. This type of litter will almost always come from cars with passengers carelessly throwing their empty drinks out of the windows.

The impacts of Covid-19 have put additional pressures on Waste collections services throughout Northern Ireland. There is a need for everyone to act responsibly and ensure they are disposing of their waste in an appropriate manner.

Commenting on the report Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, said

"We welcome that we have seen improvements last year in the fight against litter and now is not the time to take our foot off the peddle. Littering, no matter how small, damages our environment and hurts public health. The message is clear, disposing of our waste properly protects our vulnerable environment, just as it protects vulnerable key workers and public health. Working together, all sections of government and the community, we can all play our part in making a difference".

The Northern Ireland Litter survey is a country wide survey that is carried out by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to assess the quality and cleanliness of our public spaces. The objective of the survey is to benchmark the cleansing performance of the councils by rating them against the same scale, thus ensuring a fair comparison. The results of the survey also provide a picture of the levels of different kinds of litter across Northern Ireland, how these vary by area, and how littering trends are varying over time.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations that Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful believe are necessary to meaningfully reduce littering, dog fouling and related environmental damage to Northern Ireland.

You can read the full report at: https://keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.etinu.net/keepnorthernirelandbeautiful/documents/007934.pdf


To speak to a press spokesperson or for more information please contact Jamie Miller, Local Environmental Quality Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at: Jamie.miller@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org T: 07725262248