Ireland is one of the largest plastic producers in the EU, and we are falling short of our targets: our EU plastic packaging recycling target will increase to 50% in 2023, but in 2019 we are not only recycled 22.5% of what we produce and use.
Fionnuala, who is working on her Masters in Climate Change: Politics, Media and Society, explains that while we all immediately think of recycling as our first port of call when it comes to managing our plastic consumption responsibly, there is actually a which is why it’s the very last term in the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle”.
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“For me, recycling is a last resort. In the first case, the best case the plastic would never be produced, in the second case, we avoid it as much as possible when we shop, even if it is not Obviously that’s not entirely possible in the society we exist in right now,” she said.
“When it comes to recycling, if we can reuse plastic in any way to extend its life cycle, that’s great, but recycling should be the last resort.
“So few things end up being recycled, and there’s this growing movement that we have to be wary of where it’s like ‘oh, all of these things are made from recycled plastic’, but that’s not all. Answer no Plus, it’s not a saving grace where we can keep producing plastic forever, so if we can go back to using things like glass or aluminum, that would be better.”
While we all have personal responsibility for managing our use of plastic, the companies that produce the majority of plastic waste must also get involved.
Some of the biggest plastic producers in the world have all the resources to sell their beverages in aluminum or glass bottles, these are much better materials to keep reusing and reusing again and again,” she explained.
“They’re almost infinitely recyclable, whereas plastic is going to degrade every time we use it, so even if things are recycled and reused, our idea of when we put something in the recycling bin and we let’s say ‘ah, that’s it, I don’t have to worry about it anymore’ – we have to dissociate ourselves from the idea that the green bin is a panacea.
“It is of course important that we put our waste in the right place, but refuse reduce, reuse, recycle should be the mantra we are working on, to reduce the amount of plastic in our lives at all.”
Fionnuala shared that there are simple ways to reduce your plastic consumption, and none of them involve making major sacrifices, but when done few and often by many, they can have a positive impact. on the planet.
“Good news, because it’s hard for people to always be told they have to do this and they have to do that, is that society is changing, because plastic and oil are also closely related so I still think I need to divest from plastic the same way I need to divest from fossil fuels is that there’s a European directive that’s taking us towards a circular economy and bans certain single-use plastics.
“So it’s everything from single-use cups to all kinds of cutlery, so the company is being restructured to make it easier for us to avoid this unnecessary waste and I think that’s key.”
The radio host proposed that it is only right for things to change from the top down, as governments, industry and society as a whole must take responsibility for change rather than putting all the responsibility on the individual.
“It needs to have never been there and never been made rather than trying to dodge it, and society needs to operate in a much more circular way.”
“Until then, in getting rid of plastic consumption, I would consider replacing single-use with reusable where possible. A really handy place to start, and I think many of us are already there, is to get a reusable coffee mug and water bottle. , these are awesome.”
Opting for a metal bottle rather than just a sturdier option is ideal as it avoids the inevitable problem of limited plastic reuse.
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“What I’ve been doing lately is growing basil or spinach that you buy in bags that always end up going out – going through loads of plastic bags if you fill them up – just have it cool on the windowsill and cut it as needed and it will last almost all year round for you.
Fionnula also predicts that grocery refills will be another big frontier for reducing plastic waste, with a number of supermarkets currently testing it on a small scale.
There are already many specialist supermarkets that only supply refillable groceries across the country, such as The Source Bulk Foods in Rathmines, Dublin, The Filling Station on Abbeygate Street, Galway and TWIG Refill in Clonakilty, Cork.
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