VOLUNTEERS RALLY DURING PANDEMIC TO KEEP OUR COMMUNITIES CLEAN

More than 1,600 bags of litter are gathered during the lockdown period

Northern Ireland’s largest clean-up this year, The Not So Big Spring Clean, has announced the results of its annual clean up; with 1,258 volunteers picking up 1,636 litter bags from March to October 2020.

The campaign is a province-wide initiative, organised by environmental charity Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful as part of their Live Here Love Here campaign, covering all communal areas such as parks, shores, forests, rivers, beaches and reservoirs. Normally, volunteers from schools, businesses and community groups across Northern Ireland attend organised litter picks or create their own community-based events, but with lockdown measures in place the charity has encouraged more families and friends take part in small groups.

Live Here Love Here has been championing local communities who are passionate about improving their environment for the past five years – making a cleaner, greener and safer place for local residents and families to enjoy and spend time together.

Karina Robinson, Projects and Events Officer at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful commented: “This year, our not so 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, schools and businesses to join forces, we’ve had to think of things a bit differently. During lockdown, many of us enjoyed time outdoors and this has shown just how important these beauty spots are, especially for our health and wellbeing. So instead, we extended our deadline and have been supporting people who want to head out with their families during their daily exercise, and of course in small groups, to pick litter and tidy up where they can. If the pandemic 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. The aim isn’t just about picking up litter, but to create a society that values the environment and to change behaviours for the better.

As part of the initiative, volunteers were in with the chance to win the litter-picking gadget, Handicart, donated by Helping Hand Environmental. This year’s winners were the Belshaw Family.

Jenny Belshaw, a class room assistant at a local primary school, said: “Volunteering like this is usually a big community event, but with Covid-19, we just did it in our own families. It was a fantastic day, going from Murlough into Newcastle, doing what we can for the environment along the way. We’re always a bit horrified by the amount of straws, Q-tips and wipes which are terrible for our coastlines. There did seem to be a lot less plastic cutlery than last year which is a good sign though. We found the lid of a Smarties tube – considering that they haven’t had plastic Smarties tubes for nearly thirty years, it certainly caught our eye. My eldest daughter who is 16, even found a crisp packet that is older than her! We’re delighted to have won the Handicart, it’s been a real treat for us and will make things much easier when we’re out volunteering in the future.”

Stacey at Helping Hand Environmental said: “It really is inspiring to see the amount of people that are dedicated to making their community a cleaner place and we are delighted to be able to help the Belshaw family continue their fantastic work with the help of our new Handicart Duo Littercart.”

Karina continued: “All our volunteers are fantastic, they are building a movement of people who care about where they live and want to preserve it for future generations. They are so proactive and as our results show, they are making a real and credible difference. Many of our ‘one off’ volunteers then go on and take things a step further through ‘Adopt a Spot’ – taking ownership of a particular area. We want to harness this passion from local communities – supporting with advice and the tools needed to make a real difference.”

The Adopt a Spot initiative is open to everyone; families, community or youth groups, schools, sporting associations and clubs. If your area is plagued with litter – the team at Live Here Love Here can help.

Volunteers who sign up to ‘Adopt a Spot’, will receive an adoption pack containing all the equipment needed to run a safe and successful clean up. To find out more, visit www.liveherelovehere.org or contact enquiries@liveherelovehere.org to get in touch.

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