A business owner has praised the council for the work they do to clean the area – but claims more education is needed to reduce litter.
Tom Gilbert, who runs Ballylagan Organic Farm in Straid with his wife Patricia, believes Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council are doing as much as they can to reduce litter, but said that the problem of discarded rubbish is still a major issue.
Mr Gilbert made the comments after figures were released by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, showing almost £2.5m was spent on cleansing across the region.
A spokesperson from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council spent a total of £2,471,527 on cleaning our roads, streets and open spaces; a rise of 14 per cent on spending during the previous year. This expression of serious intent to clean up our streets and parks was supported by a rise of 14 per cent in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering.”
Speaking to the Times, Mr Gilbert said: “I appreciate the council are doing as much as they can to try and keep the area tidy, with limited resources, but the problem of littering, especially in rural areas, is still a major issue.
“I understand that it is difficult to catch people littering, but I feel that if people are caught, they should be made an example of, in order to deter others from littering.” The small-business owner added: “I feel that more education is needed to stop people from dropping litter.
“If children in primary schools are taught at an early age that it is wrong to drop litter, then hopefully this would reduce the amount of waste discarded along the sides of our roads.
“A lot of the litter that lines our rural roads is fast food packaging and drinks containers. I believe the owners of the fast food outlets and the manufacturers of the packaging are not doing enough to help alleviate the problem. In my opinion, a joined-up approach with these people involved, would help to decrease the amount of litter in the area drastically.”
Commenting on the funds used, a spokesperson for Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said: “Council is committed to ensuring that the borough is clean and tidy. This commitment takes the form of street cleansing, provision of litter and recycling bins as well as education, awareness and enforcement.
“Currently council’s street cleansing teams work seven days a week sweeping and litter picking across the borough. There is also a programme of support for community clean-ups through provision of equipment and disposal of waste. Council has also made a commitment to the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Big Spring Clean.”
The spokesperson for the local authority added: “Most residents and visitors are responsible and do not drop litter and staff build on this through working with local community groups to encourage pride in their areas. Council contributes to the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Live Here Love Here programme. This programme both supports local community groups to carry out environmental projects and contributes to local and regional advertising campaigns.
“For the small minority of people who do litter, council has an enforcement team that uses a range of powers to try to change behaviour.
“Council will continue its commitment to ensuring the borough is a place where people enjoy living and visiting.”