16 Jun

Waste Reduction Bill 2017 – needs all our support

We are delighted to see the Green Party launch their Waste Reduction Bill 2017.  The Bill calls for much needed practical steps to combat plastic pollution.  A deposit refund scheme is outlined for glass and plastic bottles and a complete ban sought on single use non-recyclable plastics, such as disposable cups.

We are aware more than most in Zero Waste Ireland that the issue of plastic pollution is a massive global challenge and a blight on our own country.  According to the Green Party, every year, over 110 million tonnes of plastic is produced. Of this, up to 43% ends up in landfill.

The amount of plastic waste created in Ireland is actually unknown, as the EPA is only obliged to report on plastic packaging waste and microplastic waste created by a range of industries is currently not measured or even regulated. Microplastics are so small, less than 5mm in diameter, they escape the filters of most wastewater treatment plants.

But, with an estimated 32 per cent of plastic packaging escaping collection systems entirely, the high levels of wastage and litter from single-use plastic packaging has become a campaigning issue around the world.

So what’s the alternative?

Glass and aluminium can be recycled indefinitely without any impact to quality. The same is not the case for plastic. When a plastic bottle is recycled it is downcycled – it is not made into another plastic bottle. Instead, plastic is turned into a lesser strength plastic and turned into items such as carpets, bags, pens etc. These items then eventually end up in a landfill so a plastic bottle of coke will eventually go the landfill after a temporary spell of being a bag but a can or glass bottle can keep becoming a can or bottle forever.

 Not all plastic bottles are put in the recycling bin and may end up in a landfill or worse. Even if it is sent for recycling there are reports that some recycling plants can’t handle the volume so end up dumping the material or sending to incinerators instead

Zero-waste home movement

So, what can we do to combat our high usage of plastics – some of which isn’t recyclable? One action could be to ban the use of non-recyclable bottles in your own life, like the founder of the zero-waste home movement, Bea Johnson. She refuses anything made from plastic and avoids its use at home completely. Here, in Ireland, we proudly initiated the first plastic bag tax in the world in 2002 and many countries now also ban or charge for single-use carrier bags, resulting in an over 90 per cent drop in their usage.

“90 per cent of microplastics channelled through the waste water treatment system is ending up in the sewage sludge and 10 per cent is still going out in our treated water, which then goes back into our rivers and our lakes,

A very worrying trend that ZWAI are concerned about is the rate of increase in Plastic pollution. (see below for more info) . With over 8 million tonnes of plastic leaking into oceans each year, at the current rate, we are on route to having more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. So, in this regard, the purpose of the proposed Green’s bill is quite simple – to reduce the amount of plastic consumed in Ireland every year, and encourage recycling.

For ZWAI,  this Green Party bill is overdue and needs to be enacted urgently to stem the plastic tide.  We are confident that sanity will prevail and that all parties in the Dáil will support the Bill.

Coastwatch survey.

Much of the plastic ends up in the environment. In a recent report, Coastwatch Ireland found that 80 per cent of surveyed coastal sites contained litter, with plastic bottles being the major type of litter.  A recent survey by Coastwatch Ireland also showed 89% of people would support a deposit refund scheme.

Evidence indicates that the best way to tackle plastic pollution is to stop it entering the environment in the first place. Deposit refund schemes are a tried and tested approach that works well in a number of other countries.

ZWAI has advocated for a beverage container tax. This would be in the form of a  beverage container deposit-refund scheme,  operating nationally.  It must be targeted at encouraging glass bottle re-use and elimination of plastic containers where possible.

Global efforts.

The United Nations Environment #CleanSeas campaign is urging governments to pass plastic-reduction policies while also targeting industry to minimise plastic packaging and redesign products. Our proposed bill will nicely dovetail into this effort.

But the groundbreaking New Plastics Economy report from the Ellen McArthur Foundation is perhaps the best source of hope. Published in 2016, it is a comprehensive analysis of what the industry must do to transform the production and consumption of plastic.

It starkly points out that if the current strong growth of plastics usage continues, the plastics sector will account for 20 percent of the total oil consumption and 15 percent of the global annual carbon budget by 2050.

The report calls for a global protocol on plastics to reduce the use of harmful and non-recyclable plastics, to standardise labelling and improve the collection, sorting and reprocessing systems.

Circular economy model

In line with the circular economy model (where materials are put back into use at their highest functional level), the ZWAI and  Ellen McArthur Foundation are part of the chorus of voices that wants plastics to be reused, recycled and redesigned in an economically and environmentally sound way.

Let’s get behind this proposed Bill and make our feelings known to Oireachtas members.

Footnote :

How bad is the plastic problem globally?

Published in the journal Science in February 2015, a study conducted by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), quantified the amount of plastic waste going from land to ocean. The results: every year, 8 million metric

The results are shocking : every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. It’s equivalent to five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. In 2025, the annual input is estimated to be about twice greater, or 10 bags full of plastic per foot of coastline. So the cumulative input for 2025 would be nearly 20 times the 8 million metric tonnes estimated – 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world!


1. http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf
2. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/9/18/1239747/-Think-your-plastic-is-being-recycled-Think-again

08 Feb

The power of Less – Landfill costs rise 11%

the power of less

The Power of  LESS.

the power of less

The power of less,in your Espresso.

UK Landfill tax goes up 11% to £80 per tonne on April 1st 2014. Will this drive consumers and businesses to generate LESS waste? or will it be merely be factored into costs? And what’s it got to do with an Espresso Coffee ? or the power of less?

The UK Landfill Tax was brought into existence on October 1 1996 which saw councils charge a tax of £8 per tonne of material dumped in landfill. This is in addition to the gate fee charged by the the landfill operator (range from  £10-30).

This tax has, unsurprisingly, steadily increased over time and currently stands at £72 per tonne in 2013/14 for active waste. This will now rise to £80 per tonne on April 1 2014.

The Landfill Tax, and its escalated increase, is supposed to drive councils, businesses and consumers towards the development of recycling infrastructure by making the landfill disposal, incineration route a more financially unattractive option. The goal is  to help the UK meet its targets under the EU Landfill Directive with which it is struggling.

But will it work? Will costs be merely passed on to the consumer or will we see real progress in waste volume reduction. The Jury’s out yet but lets hope behavior will change and we will all discover the power of doing more with less waste.

So what’s it got to do with Coffee, I hear you ask. Well as you enjoy a quick kick from your morning coffee think about what and Espresso really is.  The Espresso is doing more with less. You get the kick , aroma and taste of the full coffee but in a smaller package. Doing more with less ! Enjoy.

24 Dec

A waste free office in 5 quick steps

Reduce Office Waste in 5 easy steps

A waste free office is a stress free one too !

There are 5 steps to Zero Waste in your office

-(refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and recover)

– and these steps follow a very deliberate pecking order (or hierarchy), starting with the most important step (refuse) and ending with the “least important” step (recover).

Here’s how it works:

  1. The best idea is not to create any waste in the first place (rethink & refuse).
  2. If you do create waste, try to make as little as possible (reduce).
  3. Then try to find other uses for this waste when you want to get it out of your home or workplace (reuse).
  4. If you can’t find ways to reuse the waste, then make sure you preserve the highest usage value of the resources that are contained in that waste (recycle).
  5. As a final option, any leftover waste can be used to create new forms of energy or materials (recover).


CUT PAPER WASTE: Use both sides of the page. Print draft reports on the back of used paper. Make double–sided photocopies. Print only the number of copies necessary. Limit the distribution of correspondence & reports to only those who must have hard copies. Set printers/copiers to default to double sided mode.

AVOID PAPER USE: Use email or bulletin boards, or PDFs for sending and receiving information.

PACKAGING : Use minimal or reusable packaging.

For example: re–use packing material, use less packaging, and ship merchandise in returnable/reusable containers.

MAINTAIN EQUIPMENT : Use and maintain durable equipment and supplies. High quality, long–lasting supplies and equipment that can be repaired easily mean fewer discards.

PURCHASE DURABLE ITEMS: Re–use products and supplies. Use durable, reusable products rather than single–use materials. A one–time investment for reusable items ends the frequently expensive cycle of discarding and reordering.

BECOME EFFICIENT: Use office supplies and materials more efficiently. Change company policies and operations to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and conserve materials.

RE-USE SHOP: Set up a re–use area where employees can take unneeded supplies rather than throwing them away and encourage staff to “shop” there. Exchange, sell, or give away unneeded goods for re–use.

FOOD WASTE : Separate food waste and arrange  for a food Waste collection for composting. Donate excess food, used furniture, and other materials to local organizations such as homeless shelters or charities.

Every day, we buy things that we may not really need, and throw out stuff that still has a lot of value. There are huge financial and environmental benefits to breaking this pattern. This is what Zero Waste is all about.

16 Dec

What’s Zero Waste all about?


zerowasteEvery day, we buy things that we may not really need, and throw out stuff that still has a lot of value. There are huge financial and environmental benefits to breaking this pattern.

This is what Zero Waste is all about.