Environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is championing communities across Northern Ireland who have taken part in its ‘Not So Big Spring Clean’ this year.
The initiative, now celebrating its 10th year, and part of the Live Here Love Here campaign, launched in March 2020 – calling for volunteers to carry out litter picks across the province.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful has been a pioneer of a cleaner, greener Northern Ireland for the last 20 years.
Karina Robinson, Project and Events Officer at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful comments: “This year, our Big Spring Clean hasn’t looked like previous years. With Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in place, and during a time when we would normally encourage community groups to join forces, we’ve had to think of things a bit differently.
“Many of us know therapeutic impacts of time spent outdoors. It can boost your immune system and have a positive impact on our mental health. So instead, we’ve been asking people to head out with their families during their daily exercise, and of course in groups of less than ten, to pick litter and tidy up where they can so that their communities are looking great as shops, restaurants and businesses reopen.
“If the past 12 weeks has taught us anything it is that by working collectively, we can make a big difference for the wider community.”
“Sadly, one in three people in Northern Ireland admit to occasionally littering – and that problem hasn’t gone away. We still need people to go out and do what they can, responsibly and safely, to protect our environment. It’s all about doing good, feeling good and enjoying a day in the beautiful outdoors. It’s a wonderful way to encourage people to still get outside and take part in whatever new way they can.”
This year, the charity has been offering advice on taking part during the pandemic. This has included guidance on disposing of PPE properly and how to take part, whilst still staying apart.
Last year was the charity’s best year yet with over 127,000 volunteers collecting 253 tonnes of litter across 3,868 events – an incredible contribution from local communities, schools, businesses, and individuals.
Ashleigh Moran, an eco-schools teacher at Seaview Primary School in Glenarm, said: “Our group did a big clean up just before the restrictions came in, it was our Big Spring Clean and we did the village and the beach which was fantastic. We’re so passionate about green flag at schools, so the kids have been doing their own litter picks with their families too.
“We’ve even been sending out resources to parents who have been good at keeping things going at home and coming up with inventive ideas like using recycling materials for arts and crafts.”
Karina from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful continued: “Big Spring Clean is a great reason to come together – but it has a big message and a real purpose that we can’t forget about. It exists to highlight the need to tackle litter and plastic found in our environment, and draws attention to our Litter Composition Report that highlighted 71% of all litter found is plastic – a pollutant, which is incredibly costly and difficult, if not impossible to remove.
“Campaigns like this encourage us to reduce our use of plastics and eradicate them from our environment – helping to prevent them devastating coastlines, harming marine life and even entering our food chain – all of which is damaging to our health.”