Sad, angry, worried, unhappy and want to cry – these are just some of the words used by our local young people when asked how litter and fly-tipping in the Belfast Hills makes them feel.

For too long our beautiful Belfast Hills have suffered from the blight of a few thoughtless people who use this wonderful natural asset of Belfast as a personal dumping ground. Whether ditching their take-away and drinks bottles out the car window, or larger scale dumping of rubbish (often referred to as fly-tipping), the effect on the local countryside, wildlife and community is devastating.

All too often fly-tipping is seen as a victimless crime, but they fail to see the impact it has on local wildlife and local people. It can destroy the homes of our already scarce native animals, local landowners are often forced to pay hundreds of pounds to remove waste dumped on their land (which at times prevents them from accessing and feeding their animals), not to mention the negative mental health impact of the constant presence of litter and fly-tipping on the locals who live in these areas.

The Belfast Hills Partnership has been working with some of the affected local communities to help battle this ongoing problem. Since August 2021 the Partnership has installed a number of surveillance cameras in well known fly-tipping hotspots across the Belfast Hills. Over this time they have obtained footage of over 20 incidents of people fly-tipping. This footage has been passed onto the relevant local councils with a view to prosecuting these individuals.

Belfast Hills Partnership Environmental Engagement Officer Laura Shiels has been working with local primary schools and youth groups on the edges of the Belfast Hills to talk about the problem of litter and fly-tipping. Their responses have been made into a short film where they speak out and challenge those who do this, calling them lazy, that these individuals just don’t care, they are bad to nature and think that no one will notice “but we notice”.  As one child rightly put it “they should have dumped it in the dump”.

Laura said “It has been really encouraging getting to meet so many local kids who really care about
looking after our local wildlife and want other people to care as well. They want to be able to enjoy the Hills, not see them constantly dumped on! We hope that by sharing what our young people have to say that those who litter and dump will think twice about their actions and consider the impact they are having on the local community”.

The Belfast Hills Partnership has also designed and created a number of signs warning people that they might be captured on CCTV dumping, while also reminding them that this is a home to nature. Evidence suggests that this signage is making people think again about dumping their rubbish in these areas, with less rubbish being dumped and more local residents asking for signs to be placed near them too. It is however difficult to know if we have helped stop this thoughtless behaviour, or simply moved the problem on elsewhere. The wonderful volunteers at the Belfast Hills Partnership have also been helping remove dumped rubbish from various fields around the hills.

Noel Rice Wildlife Connections Officer with the Belfast Hills Partnership has been leading much of this work with the local communities. Noel said “We’ve been working with local Councils to try to deter fly-tipping. Local residents, who bear the brunt of this anti-social behaviour, have welcomed our interventions. They’ve told us that the presence of signage, warning about the possibility of CCTV monitoring, whilst not eliminating fly-tipping, has definitely reduced the amount of incidents.”

Please join our kids in speaking out to keep the Belfast Hills beautiful by liking and sharing our anti-fly-tipping film on social media @BelfastHills . Thank you.