Plastic waste in Ireland is becoming an increasing problem. Ireland is the top producer of plastic waste in Europe, we produce almost twice as much plastic waste as the UK. To put it in perspective we produce nearly 2,000 water bottles per person annually. It’s becoming a serious problem and if we don’t start to act our environment, particularly our lakes, rivers and seas, is at risk of becoming extremely polluted and inhabitable to fish.
More than 60% of plastic waste comes from packaging. In 2015 Ireland accumulated 282,148 tonnes of plastic packaging waste. Up until 2017, the majority of the waste we generated was shipped to China because we were unable to deal with it here in Ireland. In 2017 China began to ban imports of plastics and recyclables on environmental grounds. Plastic is often dirty and unsorted which is why China began to turn it away and the reason other countries are unwilling to take it in and recycle it.
While there isn’t much we can do about our current build-up of plastic waste that’s waiting for another country to open its doors and recycle it, there are ways we can prevent future build ups of plastic waste.
Here are some useful tips on how to reduce plastic when shopping;
- Leave plastic and excess cardboard packaging behind at the supermarket. This will not only save you the trouble of sorting out the excess packaging and correctly recycling it, it will also send a message to the supermarkets and manufactures to cut back on the packaging.
- Buy loose fruit and veg – where possible.
- If possible buy items with paper or cardboard packaging instead of plastic.
- When buying meat, chicken or fish, ask your butcher to wrap your purchases in butcher paper rather than plastic bags or bring reusable containers to place your goods in.
- If plastic packaging is inevitable, choose hard plastic over soft film as hard plastic is recyclable whereas soft film tends to not be recyclable.
General tips on cutting back on plastic;
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic ones. You can fill them up before leaving the house saving you money and saving the planet. If you’re out and about and need to refill your bottle check out refill.ie which shows you where you can refill your bottles for free.
- Use a reusable coffee cup. The majority of takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable. Check with your coffee shop as many offer financial incentives for using your own reusable cup.
- Cut back on use of plastic straws. If you need to use straws invest in reusable steel or paper straws and ask your local bar and/or restaurant to do the same.
- Instead of using cling film use wax wrap.
- Use canvas bags instead of plastic bags when shopping.
Written By: Eimear C.