The blight of litter along the main route into Whitehead is having a negative impact on tourists’ perceptions of the area, a local man has said.
Community volunteer Noel McKee made the comments after collecting a record 39 bags of rubbish during a recent litter pick.
Noel began his efforts to keep the town tidy about 10 years ago, alongside fellow volunteer Stan Woods.
Both men are part of the Whitehead Wombles group, which takes part in a larger scale Big Spring Clean on an annual basis.
“Normally around twenty people turn up and we blitz an area such as the shorefront to Blackhead,” Noel said.
The local men also make a fortnightly effort to clean the main road from Whitehead to Tongue Loanen at Kilroot, with pickers, bags, and gloves provided by the council.
“This is a four mile stretch and is constantly littered from motorists and cyclists,” Noel said.
“Over a normal month I would expect to lift around 25 full bin bags of rubbish. This saddens me and I sometimes wonder what it is that I’m doing. People will see that I am a volunteer and the blue bags at the side of the road indicate that they are lifted by the Whitehead Wombles and not the council.”
Resuming the litter pick last week after the Christmas period, however, the men were met with a sharp increase in the amount of rubbish collected. “Stan and myself lifted 39 full bin bags which broke our record for litter dropped on this stretch,” Noel said.
Some of the most common items collected are cigarette packets and butts, drinks cans and bottles, sweet and crisp packets and fast food wrappers. “There are 16 items of litter in a Big Mac meal. Look at the damage that one thing can do,” Noel said.
“No one sees the consequences: the damage to wildlife, blocking of water courses and drains, the pollution to the environment, the blight on the landscape and the message it sends out to tourists.
“We really need more enforcement and education for this to stop. We need to take responsibility for what we are doing and that needs to start now.”