Waste management. I cannot believe this is not mentioned as part of the Development plan as it is integral if areas are to have increased housing and business. While Ireland currently recycles 33% of all plastics, higher than most EU countries, that figure needs to rise to 50% in 2025 and 55% by 2030 to meet EU targets. 40% of all municipal waste is recycled. But where?
General. Recycling and waste bring centres should be expanded and rationalised so that a visitor is clear what materials are taken and the same things are taken across the county. Each centre should also have the facility to take some domestic rubbish especially in small towns where the surrounding areas may not have door to door collection.Skibbereen has just adopted this scheme, which, although expensive, is appreciated. Recycling of cans and bottles is well established, but a deposit scheme for glass bottles would save on energy (Energy) if they were washed and reused. A collect and return scheme would be needed to get them back to the manufacturer or a bottle sanitising plant. Which could return the clean bottles to the manufacturer in the same way the new ones were sent out for filling.
Recycling systems can include a more rigorous sorting of materials into say plastic bottles, soft plastic and black plastic to improve prices fetched for recyclable material.
Communities could be funded to set up repair cafes. An attempt in Skibbereen was scuppered by the lack of insurance cover. Insurance companies need to be held to account for their refusal to cover community schemes. O’Donovan’s hotel in Clonakilty had to stop the rent a bike scheme through lack of insurance. This needs addressing countywide and nationwide. Repair cafes and freecycle groups keep materials out of the waste stream for longer and provide opportunities for socialising and innovative business. (Community). Principles of the circular economy should be adopted to keep as much material in circulation for as long as possible in its different forms before it finally goes for recycling.
Recycling Centre with more space could devote and area for people to buy or take for free others unwanted but usable items. Skibbereen has Lisheens House which takes used furniture and sells it for funds and is a much valued resource for furniture and for assistance with mental health.
Food waste: The average household in Ireland is responsible for 117kgs of Food Waste pa. Provision of land for allotments and community gardens in town areas provide not only a space to restore well being and meet others, but also a place to grow food.(Community) This reduces food miles (Energy), is more likely to be produced organically (Biodiversity) and can provide composting areas to keep food and vegetable waste out of the urban waste stream. One Green Village Baltimore is setting up such a scheme. In areas where this cannot happen, collection points at the local recycling centres could be serviced by local farmers or other enterprise with space and facilities to compost efficiently. Money could be recouped by selling bags of compost. Tidy towns and other interested parties could be involved in smaller scale ventures, perhaps on street and housing estate level. This is being looked at by Sustainable Skibbereen. Local food markets selling local food reducing food miles (Energy) should be encouraged as people tend to bring their own bags and only buy what they need, rather than the ‘two for one’ special offers encouraging over buying where often the second often unwanted portion lands up in the bin.
It is quite clear that plastic has become a major pollutant of land, sea and more recently, air.
Another huge issue is the pollution of the seas, beaches and coastline especially by plastics. A lot of this is in the form of ghost fishing nets found at sea, but also it is clear that on some piers, Baltimore being an example, uncontrolled waste due to net maintenance, where small pieces of cut off nets are left lying around and blow straight into the sea, as is quite evident from the plastic collected from nearby beaches by volunteers. These could be hoovered up from the pier as soon as the net maintenance is finished if there was the machine and enough pressure to do so. The harbour masters should be educated to see the problems of waste plastic in the oceans and given the responsibility of clearing up everything. In my experience some people ignore the small pieces as the large nets are put to one side. Collection of plastics from the sea by boats is encouraged but it is common knowledge that a lot of rubbish is still thrown overboard out of sight of land. County Cork could work towards a more responsible fishing industry community and port management. The County spends a considerable amount in disposal of unwanted nets collected at port and the reason for this waste could be examined with the purpose of reducing it. The leisure craft side also holds a huge responsibility here. (Maritime Cork)
The Blue Flags awarded to beaches should include an element where the rubbish on the beach is included in the assessment for the award. (Green infrastructure). This should be made clear on the beaches themselves and visitors encouraged to take their litter home. On the busier beaches in the summer a beach patrol could be set up a mix of funded workers and volunteers to make visitors aware of the damage done to wildlife and a bit of fun around clearing up.
Ultimately because the plastics industry is driven by the oil industry and the marketing of plastic products is production driven not consumer led, there is a huge role for government on local, national and European levels. Presently the responsibility for disposal is pushed squarely in the shoulders of the consumer and the costs of disposal / recycling borne by them and the County Council. The choice of wrappings in the supermarkets is skewed in the case of fruit and veg towards plastic wrapped fruit as it is usually cheaper and so much easier to pick up one pack rather than select 6 individual apples for example. Plastic is an amazing product which does its job exceedingly well but it shouldn’t be an instantly disposable product. We have only got to this stage because the cost of disposal/ recycling has not been taken into account in the manufacture. This has to be reversed. And less plastic used in wrapping will also reduce the amount of plastic rubbish strewn in our hedgerows and beaches. It is difficult to see how to dissuade the section of public who throw rubbish out of car windows and dump bags in the countryside.
Although Ireland recycles 40% of its waste, recycling of plastics has been shown to be a poor system. In the best of worlds it can only be recycled a small number of times and only 9% is generally recycled. How does Cork County Council check that what is sent for recycling actually gets recycled? This is an important question in the light of recent reports where UK recycling has been found on Turkish beaches. Technologies should be looked at where plastic can be recycled locally ( Energy) or turned back into oil by pyrolysis to use as a raw material Incineration is a short term answer and its value increased by producing heat or electricity, but it is controversial as unless very carefully run it produces air pollutants. Incineration should not therefore be relied on as a way to remove plastic waste. Certain plastics can be used to produce long lasting structural plastics for domestic and commercial use such as fences and outdoor structures. This could be more easily achieved by better sorting of plastics at the source of collection to provide a cleaner supply. Deposit on bottles is a system long operated successfully in Germany. There is no reason why the reverse vending machines cannot be used in Ireland. Wy not start in County Cork? The Refill program for drinking water refilling stations reduces the need for plastic bottles of water (Energy). This is already in place I Skibbereen and Baltimore and could be further be rolled out in Cork County with the help of community groups, such as One Green Village Zero Waste and Tidy Towns. Keep cups are a growing trend but it has been up to individuals to take this up. Coffee outlets need to be encouraged, perhaps by. Increasing the tax on single use cups and reducing tax on the keep cups. The County Council and UCC have set a good example here by banning the disposables. While some single use plastics are being banned, the Council should take the matter to Government to reduce the production of the single use plastics again maybe by taxation and invest in development to produce long lasting reusable containers for transport of goods which can be taken back up the supply chain to be refilled. This could happen if suppliers got together to streamline container designs and rationalise supply chains. Tax incentives could work with supermarkets given a break if they adopt such schemes. Compostible containers have their place but it’s often confusing as to whether they are fully compostable in the domestic situation or whether they need high temperature composting by commercial facilities. Plastic producers could accordingly be taxed on the amount of material used for single use plastic bags for instance, or given the responsibility of their disposal or recycling. If being imported from outside the EU plastic rich products could be subject to higher import tax. The number of different types of plastic should also be reduced to enable easier recycling. The council could continue the analysis of their own (plastic) waste and look to its reduction. There could be prizes and recognition for companies who reduce their waste by a given amount.
Textiles usually include some synthetic forms these days, so a form of plastic. Waste is partly created by cheap imported clothing, items being worn very few times before discarding. Charity shops and others selling second hand clothing could have rates reductions as they are keeping clothing out of the waste stream. Enterprises using used cloth and other materials could be encouraged though schools and universities