Those who litter the countryside should be robustly pursued

News Letter editorial of Wednesday August 4 2021:

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Just as war often produces great technological advances of benefit to humanity, so in the pandemic there have been developments which have improved life.

Despite the death, distress and disruption of the last 17 months, there have been changes which many people do not want to lose – more time with family, less unnecessary travel, more flexible work, reduced congestion and so on.

One of the major benefits has been more time, and many of us have used that time to better acquaint ourselves with the locality in which we live and with the wider Northern Irish countryside.

This is not only good for the walker, but also for nature itself – wider public appreciation ought to contribute to greater care for the environment.

But not all those who visit rural Ulster do so respectfully. In a report published yesterday rural insurance company NFU Mutual said that “fly-tipping in fields, gateways and country lanes reached epidemic proportions”, something it partially put down to restricted access to recycling centres.

There has always been rubble and rubbish, and some of it has historically been dumped thoughtlessly. But the longevity of plastic has transformed the ecological significance of littering in the countryside. At the weekend a new study suggested that plastic pollution creates an “evolutionary trap” for young sea turtles. Even based on what we now know, plastic is deadly for some creatures.

Increased visits to the countryside need not mean that litter inevitably increases. More education can help. But that should be accompanied with robust enforcement.

Stormont and councils should pursue offenders – with new laws if necessary – knowing that the great bulk of responsible citizens enthusiastically support such action against those who selfishly spoil our beautiful land.