Drowning in a Sea of Plastic – How East Cork Firms Can Help Stop the Global Scourge

Martha Doyle Cork Environmental Forum

East Cork business owners are being asked to sign up to Ireland’s first ‘Tap Map’ drinking water search engine.  The Cork Environmental Forum is looking to join forces with businesses in Youghal, Midleton and Cobh to help encourage the public to get tap happy and switch to reusable water bottles, as concerns on plastic pollution increase.   Martha Doyle of the Cork Environmental Forum say that, by companies registering their interest at www.refill.ie they hope to get people ditching single use water bottles in favour of reusable bottles.

By creating an East Cork drinking network, the Killeagh woman hopes to connect people looking for water with local businesses, transport hubs and public spaces, where they can refill free of charge, on the go.  A Refill group has already been set up in Cork City with over 50 businesses taking part.  Now, the concept is being launched in East Cork with businesses in Midleton and Cobh already on board.

Participating businesses in Midleton such as Vanda Silva Therapy and Crafty Hands, and Cobh businesses including Heritage Centre, Water’s Edge Hotel, Seven Takeaway and Cuppacity, are doing their bit to fight the growing scourge.  Each business places a sticker in their window alerting passers-by that they are welcome to come in and fill up, even without a purchase.

It is estimated that 26 million tonnes of waste plastic is produced in Europe annually with experts claiming that, by 2050, we could have more plastics than fish in our oceans.  Ireland is the worst offender when it comes to plastic waste, with over 60kg being generated per person per year.  At one level you have our Legislators making good inroads at European level in outlawing single use plastics and micro beads but domestically we seem to be falling behind.  “People want to help stop plastic pollution, and Refill puts the power in people’s hands to do that” says Ms Doyle.    “This is about not having plastic in the first place; it’s about a mind-set change, it’s about working together on the ground dealing with this issue”   “Let’s not wait for a Government Directive or an EU Directive, let’s do it ourselves.   It’s about empowering ourselves” said Ms Doyle.

Last week the EU committed to the phasing out of all single use plastic by 2021, where an alternative material can be used.  The Parliament also announced that it would make sure that plastic bottles are 90% recycled by 2025.  At home the Government is being accused of blocking plans to establish a Bottle Returns Scheme for all drinks containers including plastic, glass and metal.  Green Party Leader, Eamon Ryan was critical of the Government last Tuesday (22 October) when it sought a review of the Green proposal.  He said it amounted to “a do nothing exercise from a do nothing Government on the Environment.”   Mr Ryan said the Returns Scheme, if implemented, would reduce plastic pollution, help tackle littering and lead to increased recycling rates throughout Ireland.   Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said the scheme could cost up to €100 million to run, and would reduce plastic waste by only 2%.

He said the Government would, however, work with Europe to implement a ban and restrictions on single use plastic.

The new Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton said his Department would carry out a review to inform “an evidence-based approach for effective regulatory and policy decision-making in addressing waste from single use plastic items”