Environmental charity, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, has today published a report revealing the companies frequently associated with branded litter items across Northern Ireland.
The ‘Litter Composition Producers Report 2019-2020’ summarises the key findings of litter found on-street in Northern Ireland between 21st January and 4th March 2019. Commissioned in anticipation of incoming legislative requirements set out in the EU Waste Directive and Plastics Directive, the Report is the most comprehensive and detailed report for Northern Ireland to date, and its aim is to lift the lid on the reality of littering to subsequently collaborate with producers to find a long-term solution and reduce the financial impact litter is having on the taxpayer.
The Report reveals that just 25 producers are responsible for manufacturing 77% of the branded litter found in Northern Ireland and are largely food, drink and tobacco producers. Of these, the top seven producers are responsible for manufacturing a staggering 52% of all branded litter found in Northern Ireland.
Drinks litter accounted for over half of all branded litter, with the most-frequent litter in this category produced by Coca-Cola, Boost Drinks and Lucozade Ribena Suntory. Unsurprisingly, one of the most frequently littered branded items was the plastic bottle. An estimated 100,000 branded plastic bottles* were recorded during survey dates. Take-away coffee might also not taste so sweet when put in its context; an estimated 30,000 single-use cups* were recorded as branded litter during the survey period.
However, the Report stresses that tobacco companies’ produce is prominent with cigarette butts accounting for 37% of all litter. It is highlighted that although tobacco producers JTI UK and Imperial Brand PLC are featured in the Top 25 brands named, they would actually compete with drinks producers for the top spots on the leader board if cigarette butts were branded.
Responding to the report, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Edwin Poots, before his departure from Stormont said: “This report is an extensive and important piece of work examining what is being littered and in what quantities across Northern Ireland, identifying the most common producers and brands making up our litter.
“I am committed to tackling litter and the damaging impact it has in our community and the environment. The prevention of litter in the first place is the best way to tackle the problem and I am presently considering a number of legislative measures which will assist this.
“I am confident that legislative measures, supported with continuing behaviour change initiatives, will help reduce the menace of litter and plastic pollution in our environment.”
CEO of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, Dr. Ian Humphreys said: “Today’s report is just one area of our work and changing consumer behaviours to prevent littering and improve recycling will continue. That said, it is right, particularly in light of forthcoming legislation, that the focus now moves onto producers of packaging and littered items.
“They must contribute fairly to both education and awareness raising campaigns and the huge street cleaning bill currently being met by ratepayers, whether or not they buy those products.
“Our intention is to start a productive dialogue with producers to find a workable, maintainable solution that shares the burden in fairer way.”
45% of the public openly admit to littering, contributing to the £29 million cost of annual street cleansing for 2018-2019 in Northern Ireland. The Report estimates there are 1.3 million items of litter on our streets at any one time, and that for every single item binned, three items are littered.
With 80% of marine pollution coming from terrestrial sources, the consequences of animal ingestion of plastic are well documented for marine life. However, there is also evidence of the harmful consequences of plastic pollution on Northern Ireland livestock and birdlife. Examples include urban bird’s nests reported to contain elements of plastic that entangle fledglings.
Forthcoming legislation will soon place increased responsibility on producers to address plastic pollution, littering and behavioural change. Producers are urged to take greater accountability now, prior to legislation being enforced.
Calls to action include greater litter legislation, funding for behavioural change and the introduction of a deposit return scheme. Regarding future legislation that is introduced, it is vital that money raised in Northern Ireland returns to Northern Ireland to support the local economy directly.
For more information on the ‘Litter Composition Producers Report 2019-2020’ and the work carried out by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful visit keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org