Keep NI Beautiful survey shows plastic makes up 78% of NI beach litter

9 Jul 2020 Geoff Nuttall    Last updated: 9 Jul 2020

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful's latest marine litter survey reveals the extent of the single-use plastic litter on our beaches

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful's 2019 NI marine litter survey has revealed there are an estimated 3.3 million items of litter on our coastline at any one time, 78% of this made up of plastic, including many ‘single use’ items such as drinks bottles, food wrappers and broken pieces of plastic.  

Their surveys of beach litter are carried out 4 times a year by trained volunteers across 11 ‘reference’ beaches around Northern Ireland’s coast and funded by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).  All the data collected feeds into the OSPAR Commission database, helping people to tackle marine litter in the North East Atlantic from Iceland to Portugal. 

Commenting on the 2019 Report, Environment Minister Edwin Poots MLA said;

"The figures reveal the stark reality of litter on our beaches, with over 22,000 pieces of litter collected across 11 beaches, with 78% of this made from single use plastic. With summer upon us and an ease on coronavirus restrictions many of us may choose to holiday at home. However, I would remind people of the need to ‘leave no trace’, to take all their litter home with them and recycle it where they can."  

Every reference beach is cleaned within two weeks of the survey by a range of volunteers from; families and local groups to schools and businesses. In 2019 nearly 600 volunteers got involved to help clean up the beaches, collecting over 540 bags of litter from the 11 reference beaches alone.

Jamie Miller, Local Environmental Quality Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said, “Removing these items from beaches is a small step towards tackling a very large problem in our seas, which we are only just beginning to understand.  We all have a role to play in tackling this hugely concerning environmental issue and can start by making small positive changes to our behaviours, such as avoiding single use plastic where possible, and always putting our rubbish in a bin.”

Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic people are taking extra steps to protect themselves. It is important that the public recognises that using Personal Protective Equipment comes with the responsibility of not just using it properly but also disposing of it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment and other members of the public. These items once used, need to be put in the appropriate bin.

You can read the full report at  and download it directly at:

For more information contact Jamie Miller, Local Environmental Quality Manager for Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at: [email protected]  T: 07725262248's picture
by Geoff Nuttall

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

[email protected]

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