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The Clean Coast programme saw more than 4,600 volunteers, in 210 community groups, collect a staggering 28 tonnes of litter from the marine environment in Northern Ireland throughout 2015.

Coca-Cola Clean Coast Week 2016, which runs from 6th – 15th May, is now calling for new recruits across Northern Ireland to get involved in the numerous events and clean-ups taking place along coasts, beaches, rivers and loughs around the province throughout the week.

A joint initiative between Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and Coca-Cola, the theme of the 2016 awareness week is ‘Enjoy Your Beach, Enjoy Your Beach Clean’. This year’s campaign will run in partnership with An Taisce in the Republic of Ireland and there are a range of cross boarder activities planned including clean up events along Lough Foyle and Carlingford Lough and the opportunity for volunteers to travel to Wexford to carry out a special beach clean ahead of a seal release!

The United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that 8 million individual litter items enter the marine environment every day. Marine litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea. It includes materials that are carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewerage systems and even by the wind.

The Clean Coast programme supports communities who are passionate about caring for Northern Ireland’s coastline and inland waterways, and Coca-Cola Clean Coast Week 2016 will see a range of fun and informative events with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of keeping these important natural resources free from litter. Volunteers across Northern Ireland will demonstrate the ethos of “Live Here Love Here” by organising practical clean-ups to reduce the impact of litter on the marine environment.

Coastal celebrations through the week will range from beach fitness activities in Portballintrae incorporating clean-ups, to a ‘balsam bashing’ event at Lagan Valley Regional Park, to halt the spread of the invasive plant. The Coca-Cola Coast Care Awards and annual photography competition will also launch as part of the celebrations.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said, “The Coca Cola Coast Care programme is making waves with clean-ups removing tonnes of litter from our beautiful coastline. Litter in the sea is a floating time bomb, just waiting to choke marine mammals, turtles and birds. So every piece removed helps save a life. Of course Coast Care volunteers would rather be doing something more constructive than picking up other people’s litter but the mad people are those who don’t put their litter in the bin in the first place.”

2016 sees the 9th year of Coca-Cola’s support of the initiative and Gillian Shields, Community Investment Manager for Coca-Cola HBC Northern Ireland said, “We are delighted to once again partner with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, encouraging local communities to come together in celebration of the wonderful natural resource that is our extensive coastline.

“As a global company, Coca-Cola has proud sustainability credentials and it is a source of great pride for us that Coca-Cola HBC recently topped the Dow Jones World and Europe Sustainability Indices in the beverage category for a 2nd consecutive year. Our local business makes an important contribution to these results, with ambitious 2020 targets to reduce our impact on the environment, focussing on water, waste and energy usage. We are pleased that we are on track to deliver against our commitments, with some already achieved ahead of schedule.

“Our partnership with Clean Coast is a further demonstration of our commitment to sustainability, and I would like to take the opportunity to encourage all community groups across the country to get involved in their local events and clean-ups, supporting the important goal of keeping our marine environment litter-free.”

For a full schedule of events please visit www.liveherelovehere.org. All Clean Coast Week activities added to the Live Here Love Here website will also contribute to Clean Europe Week as part of this annual Europe-wide clean-up event.

If you would like to make a difference in your area whether it be coastal or an inland waterway then you can get involved by getting in touch with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful by or emailing nicola.murray@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org . Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful will be able to support your clean ups with equipment and other means of assistance and you may even be nominated for a prestigious award when the summer is over!