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Northern Irish Council Bans Single-Use Plastic

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Volunteers from the Leatherback Trust remove a plastic fork stuck in the nostril of a turtle (Photo: Leatherback Trust / YouTube)

The campaign to remove single-use plastics has already started to take hold, with Northern Ireland's Ards and North Down Borough Council banning their use after concerns were raised by the Marine Conservation Society's (MCS) 2017 Great British Beach Clean, which reported that more than 700 pieces of plastic were found for every 100m stretch of Northern Ireland's beaches.

'Single-use plastics' are items such as drinking straws, plastic cutlery, takeaway coffee cup and their lids and stirrers, often casually disposed of or blown out of the bins into which they are deposited.They form a significant part of the plastic pollution problem by themselves, with larger pieces often swallowed by marine life and birds where they can cause fatal injuries, or death by suffocation or starvation.

Green Party councillor Rachel Woods, along with her colleague John Barry, proposed the initiative after becoming concerned at the MCS report, which placed Northern Ireland's beaches as second worst overall for beach litter in the UK. 

'We have all seen the news articles, videos and pleas, be it plastic bags inside the stomach of a whale in Norway, microbeads being swallowed by fish, various plastic items being consumed by birds, a straw being removed from the nostril of a sea turtle,' said Cllr Woods, adding, 'our obsession with single-use plastics has to come to an end.'

Up to 8 million tonnes of plastic per year finds its way into the world's oceans each year. Apart from the damage it can cause to wildlife when it is in its original form, it eventually degrades into tiny particles known as microplastics, which are now being reported to exist at all depths of the oceans.

Lizzie Prior, MCS Beach and River Clean Project Officer, said: 'The 5p single-use carrier bag charge has made a massive difference to the number of plastic bags entering our seas. If a levy was placed on single-use plastic such as straws, stirrers, cutlery, cups and cup lids, we’re confident that we’d find fewer of these items on our beaches.'

In Ards and North Down, the council plans to replace complimentary single-use plastics with more environmentally friendly alternatives such as wooden cutlery, and biodegradable materials for other single-use items. They are calling on other UK councils to follow suit.

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