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“It’s time to stop talking and start doing” – Limerick heading towards a plastic-free future

A meeting of the Environment Strategic Policy Committee of Limerick City & County Council was held in the Council Chamber in Dooradoyle, on Monday October 22, Federica Montella reports. 

Plastic was the main character of this week’s council meeting, or we’d better say the main villain.

The Environment Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) of Limerick City and Council met to discuss both potential environmental initiatives for Limerick, and issues that are threatening Ireland and the entire planet in general.

Mark McConnell, Business and Commercial representative of the SPC, opened the meeting with a short presentation explaining why the issue of plastic is particularly relevant for Ireland, the top plastic producer in Europe.

Up until 2017, China took 97% of the plastic produced in Ireland; now that the county closed their plastic market, Ireland has to seriously reconsider its plastic consumption.

“We have a problem. Reusing and recycling is crucial, we should all do it at home, but the main problem is the commercial and industrial consumption,” McConnell said.

The speaker suggested that Limerick should consider making roads, foot and cycle paths from recycled plastic, giving a good example to the rest of the country.

The city of Zwolle in the Netherlands, for example, inaugurated the world’s first cycle path made of plastic waste, which is expected to be three times more durable than ordinary asphalt.

“Limerick has a number of initiatives that could incorporate the philosophy of plastic recycling. It’s time to stop talking and start doing,” he added.

Councillor John Gilligan argued that although it sounds like a “no brainer”, several things should be considered about this proposal, such as the feasibility, the costs and the opposition of the mainstream construction industries.

Mr McConnell replied saying that there’s always been strong opposition to every change, and that the consumers have the power to change a business; he gave the example of the McDonald’s chain, which decided to move from plastic to paper straws last September.

Councillor Paul Keller added that Ireland’s plastic consumption should be “policy driven”. He continued that the country should be a pioneer in introducing a plastic ban, like it did in 2004 when it became the first country in the world introducing a smoking ban in workplaces: “We don’t want plastic, we don’t need it, we need to start from somewhere, what’s in the oceans is unbelievable,” he said.

“We can’t continue exporting our problems,” Chairperson Jerome Scanlan concluded.

Conscious Cup Campaign

Subsequently, Environment Awareness & Education Officer Sinead McDonnell held a presentation on the Conscious Cup Campaign (CCC) and the #RunReuseRefill run.

The CCC is a national campaign that started in 2016 and aims to eliminate single use cups by encouraging café customers to bring their own cup. More than 1000 cafes in the country offer monetary reduction or some other form of reward to customers that bring their own cups. In Limerick, Insomnia, Starbucks, Butlers, the Hunt Museum café are some of the cafes that adhere to this initiative.

Ms McDonnell also explained that compostable cups are not good enough inasmuch as most cafes don’t have compost bins and they would most likely end up in a landfill.

She also commented on the Zero Waste Marathon, in which 500 reusable cups were used, defining it a “big win for Limerick city”. The cups were washed and stored and will be used again next year.

“Our situation is the result of not seeing things through the lens of environment, as well as economics. We have done this to the younger generations.”

“It’s about making conscious choices, making the change that you can make, trying to influence people in changing their behaviour,” Sinead said.

The committee agreed that the change in behaviour can’t happen unless there is awareness and education, especially in schools, and that the throwaway culture must be discouraged at all costs, in order to head towards prevention.

Follow the environment-friendly campaigns through the hashtags #consciuscupireland #runreuserifill #ccc #consciuscupcampaign and check out refill.ie.

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