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Limerick’s EcoStraws paving the way for a plastic-free future in Ireland

Three Limerick businesspeople launched EcoStraws, the first supplier of eco-friendly, reusable, and biodegradable straws in Ireland on November 12.

Brian O’Callaghan, Sarah Keyes and Anthony Egan attended the National Geographic Symphony for our World performance in Limerick in September, and they found the imagery so striking that they all came to the same conclusion: Earth is under assault from the actions of man, and something needs to be done. This is when the concept for EcoStraws came to life.

The EcoStraws project has been launched at a very significant historical moment: on the 25th of October 2018 The European Parliament has voted to ban single use plastics, such as straws, cutlery, cotton buds and balloon sticks, which make up the 70% of the waste in the oceans, by 2021.

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Ireland South Seán Kelly has invited the EcoStraws team to Strasburg to address the European Parliament and introduce their solutions.

“We believe that we are ahead of the curve, we’re ready now, and other businesses have just started to think about how they’re going to replace their plastic straws or paper cups”, Ms Keyes says.

“We saw that coming, although we couldn’t have envisioned that we would have launched our business just a couple of weeks the European Parliament’s decision. We feel that we are ahead of the game and the timing couldn’t have been better”, Mr O’Callaghan adds.

Research has shown that Ireland uses approximately 1 million plastic straws every day, and they are usually made from the cheapest plastic available – hence not suitable for recycling.

In fact, straws are recorded as being one of the top ten pieces of debris found on our beaches. As a result, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces that get ingested by marine animals, and ultimately, by humans.

“It’s just one little thing that gets you thinking about the next one, and this is very important. It’s a starting point”, Sarah explains.

Ms Keyes, teacher in Ballybrown National School and member of Green Schools Education Program, has noticed that most of her students use plastic straws, cling film and other plastic items  every day; hence, she has decided to approach the principal of the school about having a single-use plastic free week to educate the children and spread the message to other schools in the country as well.

Their website offers a wide range of every sort of straw one could possibly think of: steel, paper, glass, PLA, bamboo, silicone and even edible straws in multiple shapes, colours and sizes.

As a result, the target of the company is very wide too: students, children and families as well as pubs and cafés who wish to reduce their environmental impact.

“It’s a commercial business of course, but we also want to make people aware of what is happening. ‘Single-use’ is Collins’ English Dictionary word of the year for 2018; hopefully in 2019 we will have words such as ‘reuse’ or ‘recycle’ instead”, Brian explains.

It is hard to believe that such a unique and ambitious project has been put together in a bit over a month. “We can’t believe it ourselves how much we’ve done!” Sarah admits, explaining that lots of “late nights, arguments and cups of tea” were needed.

Most products on the website are below €10, and all the packaging and shipping parcels are Eco-friendly and recyclable, too.

Sarah and Brian explain that hardest part of the whole process for them was to find the right suppliers that could fulfil their quality-price requirements. EcoStraws products come from every corner of the world, as unfortunately there are not enough local businesses supplying this kind of products.

“We want people to think of EcoStraws when they think of reusables, or when they’re having a party for their children and want to think about the environment and be eco-friendly”, Sarah says.

Their long-term goal is to make an impact with the single plastic usage in Ireland, in the hope that in a few years single-use plastic won’t be a thing anymore around the world.

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