Northern Ireland’s top environmental concerns revealed

Date published: 30 May 2019

Head of DAERA’s Environment, Marine and Fisheries Group, David Small, has welcomed the latest environmental statistics which show Northern Ireland’s household recycling rate has increased to over 48%, whilst landfill rates are the lowest ever recorded.

DARD map

The figures released today from the Northern Ireland Environmental Statistics report also reveal that illegal dumping of waste continues to be a top environmental concern for households here, followed by pollution in rivers (28%), litter (28%), climate change (27%), and traffic congestion (27%).

Top actions taken by households to reduce waste included the reuse of plastic bags, the use of energy saving lightbulbs and the re-use of clothes and furniture, whilst 1.1 million fewer plastic bags were dispensed to consumers in 17/18.

“Our stunning landscape and natural environment are world renowned and DAERA’s top priority is to protect and promote that environment. From climate change and water quality, to air pollution and waste, our goal is for a clean, healthy environment that everyone can enjoy and benefit from,” explained David.

He added: “We are delighted with the figures in relation to household recycling and landfill, however the statistics also reveal issues in the wider environment including some reports which suggest an increase in the average temperature since the beginning of the 20th century, and the fact that 71% of litter along our coasts is made of plastic.”

The report which covers eight main areas including Demographics & Public Opinion, Air & Climate, Water, Marine, Land, Biodiversity, Built Heritage and Waste has revealed a range of key environmental indicators. Of the 21 lakes monitored in Northern Ireland, five achieved a ‘good’ standard when classified in 2018, whilst drinking water quality compliance remains at over 99%.

There has been an increase of 49% since 2008 in the wild bird population, but a decrease of 12% in the wetland bird population. Figures also revealed an increase in agri-environment schemes which encourage farmers and landowners to manage their land to benefit the environment.

Whilst a 21% population growth in Northern Ireland since 1971 was highlighted, with future projections indicating a continuing increase over the next 20-25 years.

“We need to be mindful of the increasing pressures on our environment including those posed by a growing population. It is crucial that we continue to find ways to ensure our lifestyle choices don’t impact negatively on the environment, and the resources we depend on such as water, air, food and energy.

“That is why we will shortly be launching a discussion paper on how to deliver a better environment for Northern Ireland. This paper will inform a future consultation on how we protect and enhance our environment.

“We must take the necessary steps to protect our environment while developing our economy in a sustainable way. Caring for our natural resources will deliver huge benefits for everyone, not least future generations. Ultimately, health and prosperity depend on our natural environment. Achieving economic growth at the cost of its degradation is not sustainable. I hope everyone will contribute to this important discussion paper,” said David.

He continued: “Other vital initiatives are also underway including those in relation to renewable energy where we have seen the highest 12 month increase recorded to date in the generation of electricity from indigenous renewable resources.

“However we still face some significant challenges including tackling ammonia emissions, reducing the volume of landfill waste, improving the water quality in our rivers and lakes and protecting our habitats and biodiversity,” he added.

Mr Small said DAERA would continue to promote the circular economy by encouraging people to see waste as a resource, with the focus on reuse and recycling rather than disposal.

Further information

Download the statistical report containing more detail from the DAERA website.

Notes to editors: 

  1. This is the eleventh annual Northern Ireland Environmental Statistics Report. Current and previous reports dating back to 2009 can be accessed from the DAERA website.
  2. There are eight main sections in the report which cover Demographics & Public Opinion; Air & Climate; Water; Marine; Land; Biodiversity; Built Heritage and Waste.
  3. The findings in this report are based on the most recently available data at the time of publication for each indicator, and most provide data on trends over time and, where applicable, performance against quantified targets.  The indicators that were included were determined in agreement with key data providers, policy colleagues and other interested parties.
  4. The report was recently consulted upon and more information on this can be found on the DAERA website.
  5. These statistics are released according to the Statement of Compliance with the Pre-release access to Official Statistics Order (NI) 2009. National Statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
  6. The Department may take photographs and videos at announcements and events to publicise its work. Photographs, interviews, videos or other recordings may be issued to media organisations for publicity purposes or used in promotional material, including in publications, newspapers, magazines, other print media, on television, radio and electronic media (including social media and the internet). Photographs and videos will also be stored on the department’s internal records management system. The department will keep the photographs and recordings for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which they have been obtained. The department’s Privacy Policy is available on our website.
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  8. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or via email. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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