The Cobh Zero Waste team is a community-based group of volunteers who aim to help make Cobh sustainable by 2030 and a zero-emission island by 2040. We will achieve this by leading community initiatives and events and applying on behalf of the community for national support. But we can’t do it without you.

The committee is made up of representatives from Cobh Tidy Towns, Cobh Community Allotments, the Green Step, Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Harbour (C.H.A.S.E.), business owners, and locals like you. No matter your background or experience, if you are interested in learning more about the exciting opportunities our town has to become a more environmentally conscious town, and we’d love for you to get involved!

Since launching in 2016, we have run many successful talks and events from; swap shops and repair cafés to our monthly market stall at the Cobh Farmers Market and strategic town planning.

The zero-waste movement has an ambitious goal to send nothing to landfill or incinerators. But we know that this is a far-off dream. Together with clarity, determination, and purpose, we will have a powerful impact on our environment. It is all about progress, not perfection.

We urge you to join us on this journey and help us shape the future of our little island.


Steve thornhill cobh zero waste

Stephen Thornhill

Chairperson & Cobh

Steve is a co-founded Cobh Zero Waste in 2016 with Brendan Richardson, Mary O’Leary, Anna Aherne, Moggy Somers, Linda Fitzgerald, Mary Hurley and Ruth Ring.

A lecturer in agri-food economics, food policy and sustainable development at University College Cork and a consultant working on international development projects, Steve was previously Director at the UK Cereal Authority in London, where he advised the UK food industry and government on food market and policy issues.

Steve and family moved from London to Cobh in 2000. He and his wife Anne were among the founder members of Cobh Community Allotments, where you will find him pottering around and admiring the views with a cuppa. Steve is passionate about the transition to, and benefits of, a sustainable and circular economy.

“I’ve always believed that communities are where the real strength lies, and this has been proved wherever I’ve worked in the world, and in the recent response of our Great Island community to the Covid-19 crisis. When you harness the energy and resilience of communities great things can be achieved. Our amazing Cobh Zero Waste group of volunteers have achieved so much with so little in just a couple of years. We now need our wider communal strength to complete the transformation to a sustainable community over the next couple of decades”.

Mary Hurley


Mary joined Cobh Zero Waste in 2019. Mary is a lecturer in the School of Applied Social Studies UCC where she teaches and tutors on the Master of Social Work and the Bachelor of Social Science programmes. Mary has been involved in CHASE since 2002 and is the chairperson of Cobh Action for Clean Air. Her research interests include social work and the environment, and with UCC colleagues she is currently researching and developing a module Environmental Education for the professions 2021. From her involvement in CHASE as an activist and her subsequent research on the CHASE campaign Mary passionately believes in the power of communities coming together to influence and direct positive change at local and national level. This grassroots approach to promoting positive social change through participation and the empowerment of communities sits with her social work values of inclusion and social solidarity.
“My interest in getting involved in CZW reflects my commitment to working with like minded people in my neighbourhood who share a passion for a more sustainable way of living.I believe in the power of a small group of committed people to bring about positive change.”

Ruben Keane


Ruben Keane moved to Cobh in 2018. As an ‘Over the Bridger’ she deeply appreciates the beauty and variety of the habitats on the Great Island, and the strong sense of community that exists. She joined Cobh Zero Waste earlier this year (2020) as her strong conviction that community groups and local level action is what will enable us to preserving our amazing planet. She has a PhD in Plant Science from UCC and currently works on Clinical trials of new medicines and new medical devices in HRB- Clinical Research Facility, UCC and the University Hospitals.
An early love of wildflowers and plants, gained from her mother Maeve, has inspired her to start documenting the plant biodiversity of the Great Island.

Ruth Ring

Cobh Tidy Town Representative.

Ruth has been living in Cobh since 2006 and has been a Cobh Tidy Towns volunteer since 2009. Cobh is the proud winner of 5 Gold Medals in National Tidy Towns as well as a Recycling Award, Water Award and in 2019 Waste Prevention Award which was in conjunction with Cobh Zero Waste. Since joining Tidy Towns she has held committee roles as Chairperson, Schools Liason Officer and Social Media Officer .Tidy Towns encompasses an ethos of collaboration in the community to make Cobh a better place for all to live in, work in and visit. An appreciation for our stunning seaside heritage town, our gorgeous island natural environment and motivated people here gives us a very unique home.

“As a nurse, a mum of 3 active children and a volunteer I believe in caring for our future by acting today to ensure we can live our lives sustainably having an appreciation for finite resources and the animal & plant life we cohabit with on this beautiful island.“

Mary O'Leary

Mary O’Leary - C.H.A.S.E. Representative BBB .

Mary has always had a keen interest in the environment and graduated in Zoology from U.C.C..She worked as a Pollution Officer dealing with water treatment, water pollution and waste management. She ran her own oyster farm in West Clare before moving to Cobh in 1999 with her young family and husband. She is a founding member and Chairperson of Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (C.H.A.S.E. www.chasecorkharbour.com) Mary has a deep insight into waste and environmental compliance and local governance. She represents the Environmental Pillar on the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) She joined Cobh Zero Waste in 2017 and believes in the principle of sustainable living. She believes that industry and the environment must work hand in hand, as we live on a finite planet, with finite resources that have to be respected by all. She also believes in the power of individuals and communities to effect change from the bottom up.

Síofra Richardson

Member of UCC Environmental Society and UCC Green Campus

Síofra is an active member of UCC Environmental Society and UCC Green Campus, groups aiming to promote sustainability and environmental education and activism on campus. She sits on the organising committee for UCC Climate Conference. Síofra is particularly interested in climate justice and movement building within communities. Having grown up in Cobh, she became aware of environmentalism from a young age, with the presence of environmental activists involved in CHASE and the anti-incinerator campaign. As a teenager, she became increasingly aware of the disproportionate impact of climate change in the Global South, and as a result realised the necessity for widespread systemic change in Western society.
“I believe that in order to combat catastrophic climate change communities must come together to organise and establish new, decentralised and innovative ways of living that ensure resources are shared and distributed evenly. I see the waste management crisis as intrinsically linked to over-consumption and the zero-waste movement as an ideal opportunity to bring communities together in order to overcome both issues and enable them to organise and live self-sufficiently.”
An early love of wildflowers and plants, gained from her mother Maeve, has inspired her to start documenting the plant biodiversity of the Great Island.


The Great Island Circle Representative

Gerry was born in Drogheda Co. Louth and studied there at the Technical School. After spending a year as an apprentice Mechanic, he went onto serve with the Army on the Border 1971 to 1976. Next he worked with the Prison Service in Portlaoise, Dublin and finally Spike Island in 1985 when he moved to the Great Island.

Retired since 2004, Gerry enjoys gardening and historical research, having co-authored the historical guide to Spike Island. Currently Gerry is the Chairman of the Belvelly, Carrigaloe and District Community Association, Secretary of the The Great Island Historical Society and The Great Island Circle, a group set up to bring about more safe, off-road access to people living on our Island.

Gerry came on board with Cobh Zero Waste in 2020 after we completed the My Town My Plan, SECAD community development course to bring our plans to fruition.

“Cobh Zero Waste has a broad vision of a sustainable way of living including clean energy and seeks to promote it on this Island. I care about all life on this planet and see the ethos of the organisation as a way to protect it.”

Jacquie joined Cobh Zero Waste in 2018 with an interest in the natural world and protecting it. She says nothing brings her more pleasure than sitting beside water, watching the world do her thing. “Protecting that world from humans should be paramount in our decision making, both personal & collective.” She runs a small cafe in Cobh with her family, where compostable packaging, strict waste management and working with local producers are all part of our ethos. She loves a good forage, some of which finds its way onto our menu.

“I’m writing this in May, during lockdown, when the hedgerows are filled with activity & edible abundance. I get way too excited about the first elderberry flowers, making syrups & vinegars to add to just about everything. Food and nature are so interconnected in my mind, I admire its beauty but am always asking ‘what can I create with you’? I have taken a photo with my cherry tree. A tree which has the prettiest white blossoms in spring & juicy berries in summer. If I can get to the berries before the birds, I add them to dark chocolate mousse and all is well with the world.”

Melanie joined the group in 2018 with a keen interest in sustainable living and a Zoology Degree from UCC. Mel facilitates workshops on the Work that Reconnects, Zero Waste Living and foraging. She is particularly interested in supporting emotional well-being and community resilience as we face the future challenges of Climate Change. Presently she is working at developing The Green Step podcast and social enterprise to address these issues. This year she is working with the Development Perspectives Sustainable Development Goals Advocate training program to further ground the plans of Cobh Zero Waste and the Green Step in the United Nations led targets for global sustainability. She really enjoys foraging and singing among the trees and has a daily Nichiren Buddhism practice that she uses to drive her dream for our sustainable future into reality.
“As the reality of climate change becomes ever more apparent we are being forced to change how we are living. The beauty of that is we have the opportunity to transform our society into a sustainable, inclusive and resilient one. The power is in our hands to decide what the future holds and that’s an exciting way to look at it. Let’s dream big with compassion in our hearts!”

In Memory Of

Brendan Richardson

Brendan Richardson was an academic, activist and founding member of Cobh Zero Waste. 

Brendan held a PhD in Consumer Behaviour and worked as a lecturer and researcher in University College Cork. His research and interests centred around sustainability, degrowth and ethical business and marketing. 

Brendan initially became involved in the Anti-Incinerator campaign shortly after he moved to Cobh with his young family almost twenty years ago. When the campaign was rebooted several years ago, he and others recognised the opportunity to tackle the crisis head on, with the objective of eliminating the need for an incinerator in the harbour and joining what was fast becoming a new, more sustainable way of living all over the world; the zero waste movement. 

Brendan was enthusiastic in drawing up an initial plan of action, aided by his research in order to provide professional expertise on building an economically viable low-waste movement in Cobh. He was passionate about social justice and community. 

Brendan Richardson died after a short illness on June 30th 2018, at the age of fifty. His life was short but rich, his contributions to his community were bountiful. We remember him in our work.