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International Plastic Bag Free Day

03 July 2018

Eight million tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year.

Eight Million Tonnes. That’s equivalent to dumping one rubbish truck full of plastic into the sea every minute.

And the UN estimates that by 2050, this will increase to four trucks every minute. It also anticipates that in this 32 year time span, there will be more plastic than fish in the seas.

A sobering fact.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.  As today is International Plastic Bag Free Day, it is a good time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation since the plastic bag ban was introduced and to look at things we can do to continue to keep the use of plastics at bay.

Despite our comparatively small size, Ireland has proven to be a game-changer in the fight against plastics.  Although it was initially balked at in 2002, the ban on plastic bags in Ireland (with its 15 cent levy, raised to 22 cent in 2007) has proved a huge success leading to a 90% fall in plastic bag consumption in Ireland as well as inspiring a number of copycat schemes around the world.

As verified members of the Origin Green programme signing up to the Origin Green Sustainability Charter (which promotes best practice in the design, implementation and reporting of environmental and sustainability practices), more and more companies are striving for excellence in their fight against plastic practices.

A key leader in this plight is Nobó, the dairy free ice cream company in Dublin, which uses 100% recyclable product packaging. Whenever the company conducts in-store tastings, it uses only compostable bowls, cups, spoons and napkins. Such is the success of Nobó’s environmental efforts that it has decided to use fully compostable packaging (made from a sustainable plantation of eucalyptus trees) for its new chocolate products.

Inspired by this success, and given that Ireland recently signed a UN resolution to drastically reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans, we’ve come up with five practical ways to minimise the use of plastics in everyday life:

Bring your own coffee cup. Two million disposable coffee cups are given out for free every day in Ireland. The coffee may only take three minutes to drink, but the lid could take 200 million times longer to biodegrade in landfill.

Invest in a wooden toothbrush made with animal hair. Because toothbrushes need to be replaced three or four times a year, think of how many people’s toothbrushes end up in landfills or the ocean?

Buy a butter dish so that you can purchase butter wrapped in greaseproof paper rather than in cartons. You can go a step further and also choose cheese which is wrapped in paper instead of plastic.

Swap single-use cigarette lighters for matches. Environmentalists are finding plastic cigarette lighters in the stomach of dolphins, whales and birds. Buy matches!

Ditch buying plastic bottles and drink water from the tap. Invest in a steel bottle to transport tap water – metal carriers are also great for stopping chemicals from plastic leaching into water.

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