Young Reporters for the Environment

Bonfire Nights Really Burn!

We all know the classic celebration of a bonfire. One of the most iconic bonfire celebrations is the one that takes place in Northern Ireland on the 11th July or on the ‘eleventh night’ as it is more commonly known. Materials burned on these bonfires consist mainly of wooden pallets and rubber tyres. The burning of such waste directly creates polluted air; the air around Belfast can rise to nearly twice as dangerous as the accepted international level on this popular night in July.

Join me, as we strive to make the world a better place.

There is a common belief that wood burning is good for the environment because it is “carbon neutral”, however this has been disproven. The smoke that is released during wood burning contains a mixture of Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Methane. Even though the Carbon Dioxide is neutral, the nitrogen dioxide released (200g per 1000g of wood burnt) is 300 times more potent than CO2, stays in the atmosphere for 120 years and directly contributes to global warming. Methane is also released during wood burning (70g per 1000g of wood burnt); it is 70 times more potent than CO2 and is one of the leading causes of global warming. Also, by cutting down trees we are directly destroying habitats for hundreds of birds, insects and countless other things. By having less trees to absorb CO2, we are indirectly increasing the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

When we burn rubber tyres we release a smog that contains a number of gases: cyanide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide. When sulphur dioxide reacts with water in the atmosphere, it turns into sulphuric acid (acid rain) which causes deforestation. When carbon monoxide reacts with the atmosphere it takes OH ions out of the atmosphere and turns into our best friend; Carbon dioxide. Also, Methane reacts with OH ions, to reduce the concentration of the gas, but since we are removing the OH ions, we are indirectly increasing the concentration of methane in our atmosphere, increasing global warming and polluting our skies.

I propose a solution to the wood burning problem by putting a cap on the amount of wood that people can burn on their bonfires so we can keep an eye on the amount of gases released. (e.g. 6kg of wood per bonfire) We can also control the deforestation problem effectively by only cutting down trees that people want cut down so we are helping out other people as well as ourselves.

I also propose that we put a cap on how much rubber is burned on bonfires (7kg per bonfire). Another solution is to use artificial bonfires where an electric light is lit in place of materials that release harmful emissions ‘Designed and developed by Groundwork Northern Ireland our Beacons have a become popular local attraction in recent years and not just for the traditional July celebrations.’ Groundwork Northern Ireland.

Jamie O’Boyle Year 11

Young Reporters for the Environment

Water pollution is one of the most pressing issues we have in modern society. It is especially prevalent in the U.K and Ireland. Research shows it is a common occurrence for these countries to be fined for their water quality, or lack thereof.

To give an example, early last year, Northern Ireland Water was fined £80,000 for multiple ‘Pollution Incidents’. There was also a similar such problem in Castlewellan in 2016, with 1900 fish dying due to Eutrophication, and the same company being fined £100,000. This is more common than you may think as around 70% of universal industrial waste is dumped into water bodies, causing major diseases to spread to our drinking water such as cholera and typhoid.

Now, you may think that these issues, while major, are not in your local area, but you’d be wrong. Farming reported last year that a family of Ballyclare farmers were being fined nearly £3,000 [exactly £2,280] in cash due to increased fungal growth in nearby water, caused by leaking silage on their part. All this information would lead you to believe that water pollution is a large-scale offence, and while it is, barely anything has been done to prevent more issues from arising.

Former South Antrim MLA, Thomas Burns, revealed that only 1 person has been arrested for water pollution in the last 5 years, despite over 11,000 cases in that time. ‘Obviously crimes of this nature must be taken seriously’, Burns said in a recent interview, ‘but with this public expense we are entitled to see results.’

These cases have clearly influenced how the environment is treated in N.I, as local SDLP Margaret Ann McKillop tells me, ‘I know the council test it [The Water] so many times a year’, she said, ‘and we have a lot of environmental meetings about it. But, I don’t really know about an issue in this area, an issue locally’. It seems then that the largest problem with water pollution is the lack of awareness around it.

We live in a world with many people scared to watch the news due to the frighteningly real issues it reports. Issues deemed ‘more important’ than water pollution. This causes unawareness and ignorance. The solution? Report more, share more, so you can know more. The first step on this path to awareness is what you’re reading right now. Increase awareness of this growing problem, before it destroys our beautiful planet.

Article by Sean Mullan

Young Reporters for the Environment

We are rapidly digging our grave. Such a statement may seem quite exaggerated, and I wish it was. The truth is however; we are approaching humanity’s downfall. This photo, taken at Cushendall beach, reveals one of many plastics that contaminate it. They burrow in the sand and swim in the waves. Around 100,000 marine creatures die each year from plastic entanglement. Plastic can take from 20 to 1000 years to break down, and when it finally does it is in the form toxic chemicals which will continue their path of destruction.

We are fortunate enough to go to a school in a beautiful location- beside the beach. To ensure it stays beautiful, our school’s eco club intend on making a monthly trip to our local beach where we will pick up litter. However, to truly fight this ever-growing problem we need to continue to spread awareness of its affects.

By Shannon McKeown and Leja Voroblevaite

St Killian’s College, Garron Tower