Take care of the land

Marine litter is a giant problem worldwide, even for Northern Ireland, which is home to some of the best and most spectacular beaches in Europe. The good news is, if we all work together and do our bit to keep our beaches tidy, we can help put a stop to it. 

With a wild Atlantic Ocean on one side, and the Irish Sea on another, everyone from visitors to locals would agree that Northern Ireland’s beaches are wonderful places to discover and find peace of mind. More than that, they are vitally important ecosystems that support a spectacular variety of marine wildlife and habitats, from bottlenose dolphins and basking sharks to mudflats and mussel. 

That’s why it’s crucial we all take steps to tackle litter on our beaches that’s harming our wildlife and destroying our coastlines. 

We are asking everyone who goes to the beach to do their bit to keep our beaches clean - even a two-minute beach clean-up during your visit will do the world of good. 

Here are some small steps you can take that would make a giant difference: 

Clean up after yourself  

If you’re heading to the beach, you’re more than likely going to have a picnic. And rightly so! Be sure to bring a designated bag for rubbish with you. This will make it easier for you to clean up when you’re leaving and, if you spot an area of the beach covered in litter along the way, you could even help tidy that up too. If it’s not too much trouble for you to take the rubbish home and recycle it all, even better. Almost 13 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the sea every year, with 80% of this litter coming from land, so it’s important that we all do what we can to help reduce it. 

Avoid buying plastic 

If you’re out doing a bit of shopping before your picnic, be sure to buy consciously. Avoid buying single use plastic products where possible. This includes things like plastic bags, straws, water bottles, take-out food containers, and coffee cups. This will reduce the chance of you accidently leaving plastic behind that could end up in our ocean. If you can, bring along a reusable water bottle and tubs for your food. By doing this, you’ll help to ensure that you leave the beach just the way you found it, beautiful and clean! 

Watch what you flush 

What we flush down our drains can have a big impact on our environment. You can help protect our beaches by being careful about what you flush and let down the sink. You should never flush products like wet wipes, cotton buds, nappies and sanitary items down the toilet. Flushing these items can cause major problems for our wastewater system and our environment. These products do not break down quickly, and can end up clogging the system. You should always dispose of these products in a rubbish bin, even if they say they’re flushable. 

Don’t feed the birds! 

Feeding a torn-off piece of bread to a seagull on the beach may seem like an innocent idea, but the reality is, it’s not. Feeding seabirds regularly can cause unnatural behaviours and discourages them from hunting for themselves, resulting in poor nutrition. They begin looking to people for food, instead of looking after themselves. This doesn’t just have a negative effect on the health of the bird, but the entire ecosystem itself too. So, next time you’re enjoying a lunchtime sandwich on the beach and a hungry seagull approaches, well, you know what not to do… 

Spread the word 

Stay informed on issues related to plastic pollution and help make others aware of the problem. Educate friends and family about the importance of tackling climate change, and the small steps they can take that can make a giant difference. Everyone loves taking a wee trip to the sea, so let’s all do what we can to keep our beaches pretty and pristine.  

Every little helps 

By taking these small steps to help protect our beaches during your visit, you’ll be making a Giant Difference to Northern Ireland. You can sign below and join others in making a promise to be an eco-friendly visitor.