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16 October 2014
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It can kill animals and birds, poison the landscape, pollute the atmosphere and yet some of us are still happy to drop litter wherever we like without a moment's thought.

The Land

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Strangford Lough Spring-Clean 2004

(Article by Evelyn Ellison)

Come down and see what we're up to, there'll be lots of volunteers out and about around Strangford Lough cleaning up the shoreline. That was the invitation extended to the YPAM Web Team by the Strangford Lough Management Committee, whose annual spring-clean of the lough was taking place between 22 - 27 March.

View over Strangford Lough across to Scrabo
View over Strangford Lough across to Scrabo

I don't know whether it's because of the state of my desk, but the other members of the team seemed to think it would be a good idea if I went to check things out. However, as luck would have it, it was a beautiful day. As I drove along the lough side between Newtownards and Greyabbey, the water was a wonderful blue colour, the sun caught the white waves being whipped up by a strong wind. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road and not admire the view. Surely there wouldn't be much litter to pick up in this part of the world, I thought, people wouldn't want to spoil the beauty of this place. I was so wrong!

Everything including the kitchen sink!

Last year's spring-clean uncovered bits of a fridge, car parts, fish boxes, barrels, tyres, filing in-trays, as well as the usual mix of crisp packets, sweet wrappers and drink cans - even literally a kitchen sink. This year didn't look as if it was going to be any different.

When I arrived in Portaferry pupils from Portaferry Integrated Primary School were hard at work down on the shore. Tin cans, plastic bags, broken bottles, fishing nets...... they'd already filled 14 bags full of rubbish. The message they had for people was "Put your litter in the bin".

Listen - pupils of Portaferry Integrated Primary School

(To access audio and video you need RealPlayer .)

Beer cans and plastic bags washed up on the Strangford Lough shoreline
A plastic barrel left abandoned on the shore
Not in their natural habitat. Just some of the items being swept up in the Strangford Lough spring-clean.

Why should we care?

Gazing out over Strangford Lough from Portaferry I could feel myself relax and it was hard not to feel delighted that I'd escaped the office. Many of us have stressful lives and visiting somewhere as beautiful as Strangford Lough helps recharge the batteries so to speak. Noone wants to visit a dustbin, so it made we wonder why we seem to be so hell bent on turning our coastline and countryside into one with our careless attitude to litter.

Listen - on a return visit, John McCullough finds Ballyholme beach, Bangor doesn't live up to his childhood memories

We love our plastic bags don't we? We're only buying a litre of milk, but we need a plastic bag to carry it in. Sea turtles are not quite so keen on them. Plastic bags floating in the water look like jelly fish, which is what sea turtles like to eat. However, the bags twist up the turtles' intestines, meaning they can't digest anything and so starve to death. It's not just sea turtles that are affected. Plastic can choke, cut, entangle or poison a wide variety of animals and birds - nice eh?

Listen - Andy O'Neill of Exploris relates a story he tells to children of the negative impact litter can have on wildlife

If the present rash of property programmes is anything to go by, we do care passionately about where we live. Elizabeth O'Prey is no exception. She has lived in Portaferry all her life and hates to see the place, as she sees it, tarnished by the litter that people thoughtlessly dump even in the most scenic spots.

Listen - Elizabeth O'Prey

What can we do?

It was hard not to feel overwhelmed when I saw the huge amount of litter that the children from Portaferry Integrated Primary School had recovered from just a short section of shoreline. However, Tracy McCoey believes we can all do something to reduce the litter problem. Whether it's buying in bulk to cut down on the packaging or putting your sweetie wrapper in your pocket not on the pavement or taking your picnic leftovers home - we can all play our part.

LIsten to Tracy McCrea  explain how we can play our part in litter prevention
Listen - Tracy McCoey


Litter dumped in a field outside Carryduff, Co Down
Our green and pleasant land!

Now much more aware, on the way home I kept noticing litter that had been dumped along the roadside. Sheets of plastic caught in hedges, crisp packets lying on grass verges. Just coming into Carryduff I spotted these full plastic bags left in the gateway to a field - the council amentity site is only 200 yards further up the road!

Is there a litter problem in your area that you're particularly worried about? Perhaps your locality is litter free - what's the secret behind this success? Share your comments and stories here on Your Place & Mine by filling in the form below.

Listen - Caroline Nolan's report for Your Place & Mine on the Strangford Lough Spring-Clean 2004

What the Spring-clean uncovered

A baby's buggy, bits of furniture and barbeques, carpets, a tennis racket, sofa cushions, parts of a tool set, a tracksuit, a kettle, a traffic cone, a fire extinguisher and an estate agent's board! It's hard to believe but these were among the items found along the shoreline during the spring-clean. Our litter habits aren't changing either - apparently similar items were found during last year's spring-clean. For an update on the results of the spring-clean visit the Strangford Lough Office's website at

If you live in the Ards area and are interested in organising a spring-clean event, you can contact Andrew McLawrence at Ards Borough Council on 028 918 24000.

Visit your local council website for details about recycling and amentity sites in your area eg Ards Borough Council, Coleraine Borough Council or Fermanagh District Council.

Read about a campaign Belfast City Council have launched called "Litter. Don't Drop it - Stop it", aimed at getting tough with those who drop litter.

(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.)

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