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It’s a hot topic anytime of the year, but even more so now as we see discarded litter at our favourite beauty spots continue to increase.

It may seem obvious to take litter home when enjoying the outdoors, but many don’t. ‘The Right Side of Outside’ is a nationwide campaign rolled out by Walk NI that wants to reiterate the importance of taking your litter home, as leaving it behind is having a lasting damaging impact on our wildlife, countryside and oceans; plus binning it isn’t always a solution at overcrowded sites

From plastic bottles, single use coffee cups and cigarette butts, to crisps packets and disposable BBQs, these are just some of the alarming things people leave behind.  Walk NI’s nationwide campaign has been launched to try and ease some of the issues our outdoors is suffering from, due to the sheer volume of people visiting since the start of the pandemic. The message is simple – take your litter home.

Stark figures from environmental charity, ‘Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful’ reveal that a staggering 1.3million pieces of litter are on our streets at any one time, with an annual clean-up bill of £45 million.  However, litter is not only a problem on our streets; disregarding rubbish has a devastating impact on marine life. Research conducted at 12 beaches around our coast in 2019, revealed that there was an average of 508 items of litter per 100 metres. These items included single use plastics and fishing gear.  A disregarded plastic bottle can be pushed by wind and tides far from where it enters the sea, therefore it not only impacts sea life, but those who have to pick it up when it is washed ashore. Startlingly, for one single plastic bottle to decompose, it can take up to 450 years. 

Dave Scott, Estate and Project Manager for Woodland Trust Northern Ireland said: “The Woodland Trust looks after over 50 sites across Northern Ireland and our woodlands are free for everyone to visit and enjoy. As we approach summer and the days get longer, we hope everyone will continue to visit our sites and enjoy more time outdoors. Woodlands, in particular ancient woodlands, are a fragile habitat and extremely rare in Northern Ireland, so we ask you to respect the local environment you are visiting, stick to the paths we have created for you and put your litter in the bin or simply bring it home.”

Over the past few weeks, Walk NI has seen an increase in voluntary groups coming together to recover rubbish at local landmarks.  Recently, volunteers gathered at Carrick Café at Annalong Wood, in a bid to improve the environment right on their doorstep. During this clean up, several bags of rubbish were recovered, containing items that were left unnecessarily in the mountains.   

From bringing home your litter and dog waste, planning ahead, parking responsibly, being mindful of wildlife, wearing appropriate clothing and footwear, keeping your dog away from livestock and avoid lighting wildfires; ‘The Right Side of Outside’ campaign will continue to roll out its messaging over the coming weeks and focuses on informing people on how to make the right choices outdoors.  

For more information on the campaign visit WALKNI.COM or search #RightSideofOutside. 

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