On the airplane heading back home to Canada for the holidays, and only because in my bag I had a few simple things, travel cups, cutlery and some snacks, we were able to hand-back 12 plastic cups, 3 of those pre-packed foil topped water glasses, 3 individually wrapped slices of bread and 6 sets of cutlery between us.  This was a small personal victory – especially because it had become so normal to have those few things with me and it no longer felt strange to ‘refuse’ excess plastic.  I just hope it didn’t all end up in the bin.
We have since spent 2 weeks filling up water at water fountains that seem to be all over here in Canada, every museum, ice rink and train station.  I would love to see this more in Ireland, and, as mentioned last month, with the effort of local students like Grainne, Clodagh and Alison (the latter two who are working to replace single-use water bottles with refill stations at their school) we are on that path already.
I was delighted to learn that as of last week Irish government departments and public bodies were cutting their own rubbish by no longer purchasing any single use cups & cutlery in their departments.  Wow.  The year is 2019 and it is clear that one of our biggest real threats is from our own rubbish, mountains of discards clogging oceans, polluting beaches, parks and playgrounds.  Bins teeming with plastic and paper from the industries of convenience that have sprung up in the last 30 years.  I am so glad and hope-filled to hear our government is taking a bold and decisive step forward, drawing more attention to this mad free-for-all binge trajectory of single-use that human species are slowly waking from.  Thank you all involved!
We have been working to reduce our rubbish, and over all ‘footprint’ for years now, but this past year, with this column, we have had a real focus.  Just before Christmas we weighed in.  So far we have produced 3 small bin bags of rubbish (2 domestic and 1 from my business) weighing in at a total of 6 kgs.  This didn’t seem like such a success to me (Bea Johnson only makes 1 ltr of rubbish!) but then I searched on the Irish Environmental Protection Agency’s website and found that on average in Ireland “we produce 367kg waste annually”, I don’t think I’m the only one who will have found that a shocking number… (http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/indicators/epa_factsheet_waste_v2.pdf).  The project of holding all waste and recycling back for a period of time to really look at our consumption has been great.  Enjoyable in fact!  I highly recommend it. Though we have made more (especially glass & cardboard recycling) than I would have hoped, it has also drawn my attention and focus to the lifestyle, commercial and logistical systems that contribute so much to this human problem.  So now I’m looking forward.
We are very close to the end of this project, this is the 11th article in my year-long cut-the-rubbish series and now that the rubbish reduction seems almost second nature i’m gleaning inspiration from books like How to Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum (which I discovered on the counter at Twig refill).  In his book Will encourages and empowers the reader to be a part of the movement, interviewing change makers from around the world and from all walks of life who have been actively involved in drawing attention to and solving the crisis of waste – especially on single use plastics, lobbying politicians and companies, documenting found plastic on beaches and floating in open water, finding out where our waste and plastic recycling really ends up; gathering evidence to beat the strength of the cost-benefits and convenience of waste.  A brilliant book, definitely worth a read.   Until next time, don’t forget your mug!
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