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Single Use Plastic – A Major Environmental Challenge

Plastic is everywhere and at the rate we discard it, some experts predict, that by 2050, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish. It is estimated that about 8 million tonnnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. Once there, it is difficult to get rid of, because plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Plastic waste is a major environmental challenge and one of the biggest plastic problems concerns single use plastic. Items like plastic straws, cups, cutlery, food wrapping and bottles account for at least half of the plastic dumped each year. We use these items once, sometimes for a matter of minutes, and they end up polluting the planet for hundreds of years. Instead of using plastic items once and then dumping them, we can try these simple but powerful alternatives.

Get a Refillable Water Bottle.

In Thurles, we are blessed with a clean and healthy drinking water supply, so why not opt for tap water instead of bottled water? If a person buys a bottle of water ever day, that’s 365 plastic bottles a year. Imagine that sight in your back garden? By simply buying a refillable bottle, not only will you be saving the planet, but you’ll also save yourself a lot of money. 

Get a Coffee KeepCup.

We all enjoy a takeaway coffee but although the cups are often made from paper, the lids are typically made from plastic. Thankfully, coffee shops, including our own local Costa and Deja Brew, sell KeepCups. KeepCups are reusable hot drink cups. Once purchased, you bring your KeepCup to your coffee shop every time you fancy a coffee and they will fill that instead of a single use cup. 

Bring You Own Container.

Just like the reusable KeepCup in coffee shops, it is becoming increasingly popular for customers to bring their own containers to shops. Many eco-conscious consumers bring their own container to a shop, deli or butcher.  Instead of having their produce put in a plastic bag, they ask that their food items be put in their own reusable containers.

Dump the Plastic Wrap. 

Each year we wrap food in millions of metres of plastic wrap. Instead of reaching for cling film, why not keep your food covered in a reusable container. Glass containers are best because they cut down on plastic production. It is also generally accepted that heating food in plastic containers is not good for your health, because of the potential for chemicals to be released into foods from plastic when heated. 

Many of us too depend on cling film to wrap our sandwiches, but there is a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative. Made by ‘The Paper Lunch Bag Co. Ashbury, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary’, Lón an Lae, [translated “The days Lunch”], are paper sandwich bags perfectly sized for school or work sandwich snacks. They are available to buy in local Thurles grocery shops in packs of 50. 

Opt for Food in the Nude.

No, we are not suggesting that you walk around Thurles naked eating an apple, God forbid! No, ‘Food in the Nude’ is a movement that started in New Zealand and aims to stop the practice of buying fruits, vegetables and other products wrapped in plastic where possible. So, for example, instead of selling carrots on a polystyrene tray wrapped in cling film, shops sell loose carrots. The practice has proven extremely successful in New Zealand. It has not only reduced plastic use, but it has proven to be more economical for consumers and reduced food waste, because customers buy what they actually need, rather than being forced into buying a big bag of something that they won’t use in its entirety. We are very fortunate here in Thurles that our local grocery shops sell loose fruit and vegetables, so ditch the plastic wrapped options when you can.

These are just some of the ways that you can help to reduce plastic waste. Remember, the smallest changes can have a powerful impact. Single use plastic remains a huge international scourge. The problem is so serious that the EU have even developed a directive on single use plastic. For more information on single use plastic and it’s fate under new EU plans click HERE.

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