Campaign launched promoting responsible behaviour outdoors to combat littering
A new Government of Ireland campaign has been launched to tackle a growing littering issue throughout the country, particularly in some of our most scenic locations which have recently become littering hotspots. It is a joint initiative of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Sport Ireland, The Department of Community and Rural Development, the Office of Public Works, Coillte and Leave No Trace Ireland.
The campaign aims to promote responsible outdoor recreation practices that will ensure a healthier and sustainable future for all. It calls on everyone to take care of the outdoors to ensure it is preserved for future generations. There has been a notable increase in littering throughout the country in the last number of weeks since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and areas affected include National Parks, Nature Reserves, Forest Parks, OPW National Heritage Sites, rivers, beaches, forests and special areas of conservation.
Maura Kiely, CEO of Leave No Trace Ireland, calls on the public to work together to address this issue, saying, “we need to take action now to halt the scourge of litter in our beautiful countryside. Everyone needs to take responsibility. Littering is a threat to our fragile ecosystems and a moment of laziness can have long-term effects. An aluminium can takes 400 to 500 years to break down, a plastic bag can take up to 20 years. A discarded plastic bottle, meanwhile, will last for a million years.”
The Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, Catherine Martin TD, in welcoming the campaign, said: “We all love to exercise and be active in our scenic outdoor spaces so let’s ensure they remain accessible to all by Leaving No Trace and keeping our natural environment litter-free. As more of us ‘make a break for it in Ireland’ this year let’s respect the environment which is one of Ireland’s greatest assets.”
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said: “Our National Parks and Nature Reserves encompass some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in Ireland. Since the outset of the pandemic, these sites have seen unprecedented levels of domestic visitors as people reconnected with nature.
“Our parks offer a lifeline space to support our physical and mental health providing a safe place where people can seek fresh air, exercise, and practice mindfulness while still adhering to physical distancing protocols. Unfortunately, as increasing numbers of people seek the beauty and exhilaration of outdoor recreation, our collective mark on the environment and its natural processes also increases.
“Litter, disturbance to vegetation, water pollution, wildlife, livestock and other people are all indicators of the need to develop a national ethic that protects both natural and cultural heritage. I would encourage everyone to treat our natural heritage with the respect it deserves and to follow the principles of Leave No Trace.”
Disposable barbecues are identified as a major problem, not just as litter but also as a source of forest fires and wildfires, and are increasingly discarded carelessly in public spaces. Disposable barbecues are not permitted in any OPW National Heritage sites, Parks or Gardens or National Parks. Wesley Atkinson Regional Manager of the National Parks and Wildlife Service says “that they not only pose a huge fire threat which divert emergency services, but they endanger our wildlife, their habitat, destroying large swathes of special areas of conservation and place fire fighting personnel at great risk to extinguish them. They also contain charcoal which is usually unsustainably sourced and cannot be recycled or composted.”
Individuals, communities, organisations and the public can sign up to get guidelines on how to be responsible in the outdoors here.