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Waste Generation & Economic Growth

Talking about climate change and other environmental issues might sometimes sound utopic and like a wasted effort for many people. However, the discussion of these themes has intensified lately from young environmental activists from different parts of the world, such as Greta Thunberg (Sweden), Isra Hirsi (USA), Autumm Peltier (Canada), Leisein Mutunkei (Kenya), Leah Namugerwa (Uganda), Saoi O’Connor (Ireland), amongst others. Despite the mass reaction of the 2019 Global Climate Strike and advances with the European Green Deal, there is still a clear lack of collective ownership within Europe, along with the rest of the world, to mitigate the environmental impacts of development and population growth. Waste management issues seems to be one of the biggest concerns of environmentalists and communities. The negative effects include an increase in plastic consumption, pollution, flooding due to clogged drainage systems, transmission of diseases from landfills, respiratory diseases from waste incineration, and harm to animals.

According to ‘What a Waste 2.0 Report’ (2018) from the World Bank, the institution estimates that the waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016 to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050. High income countries generate a total of 34% of the world’s waste, which is projected to increase 19% by 2050. In 2018, Ireland generated more than 14 million tonnes of waste across all sectors. The latest report released by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that Ireland is far behind on the EU recycling targets. Waste management in Ireland has shifted considerably from mainly landfill to policy that favours incineration.

So, what is our role as citizens to tackle these aspects from the climate crisis?

It may seem unrealistic, but we have a lot to contribute to this battle. If we want to guarantee a healthy and fair future for next generations, actions must be taken now. We must break the vicious link between exponential economic growth and waste generation, by joining the extremes of this line and transitioning to a green ‘Circular Economy’.  This will happen once we have adequate policies towards a sustainable economy, and once we start reconsidering our daily actions in favour to an environment that we want to leave for future generations.

The actions that you can do are simple: separate your waste correctly and don’t forget that recycling items should be clean, dry and loose (if you have any doubt on how to do it, contact your waste management company); use civic amenity sites or in store drop off locations (WEE recycle points) to bring electronics, batteries and other hazardous waste; practice upcycling when possible; avoid purchasing single use plastics and other non-recyclable materials. Give preference to compostable items; contact charity shops or online platforms to donate unwanted items; support businesses that are moving towards more sustainable waste practices; give preference to locally produced goods and services; and the last but not least, support and join community groups that help to transform your town into a better place to live. We are all in this together.

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The Zero Waste Communities Project​

Cobh Zero Waste is currently engaged with the Zero Waste Communities Project. This project will allow us the opportunity to become the first zero waste municipality in Ireland. The Zero Waste Communities project is part of the Zero Waste Cities project run by Zero Waste Europe (https://zerowastecities.eu/). According to Zero Waste Europe, “The Zero Waste Cities approach is a continuous effort to phase out waste – not by burning or landfilling it – but instead by creating and implementing systems that do not generate waste in the first place”. 

 

The Zero Waste Communities Project endeavours to make this a reality, by taking various steps. The first step was to a baseline of waste use and recycling in Cobh through a household survey done earlier this year. There were 130(?) survey responses, which will help establish the baseline. In the survey, questions were asked pertaining to the different waste companies, the types of bins that people have and estimates of residual waste. The survey results will enable us to become a 1st category Zero Waste Municipality later in the year, by defining quantitative targets for waste reduction and implementing local actions. In order to become a best practice municipality (2nd category) we would then have to prove that waste generation was down to no more than 75kg of residual (non-recyclables) waste per person, which could take a number of years. 

 

The approach that we are taking for the Zero Waste Communities Project is citizen centred. There is a strong focus on decreasing waste generation and improving the current recycling systems which are in place. As this is a local level project, input from the community is both necessary and welcome! We are also getting help from VOICE (Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment), a member based Irish environmental organisation. Through this project, Cobh has a great opportunity to become the first zero waste town in Ireland!

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Cobh Household Waste Survey

Cobh Zero Waste needs your help!

We’re teaming up with Voice Ireland to launch an initiative to make Cobh, our beautiful town Ireland’s first zero waste town. This will help make Cobh one of the most sustainable places to live, where most resources are recycled, rather than ending up as residual waste that ends up in landfill or being incinerated. Both landfill and incineration are harmful to our environment leading to pollution of land and sea while also adding to global warming emissions. This initiative will also help households to save money on waste bills, as we will help you to find ways of reducing waste and increasing recycling.

How can you help? By filling out this short survey and share with everyone you know who lives in Cobh

What does the survey involve? We are asking how you currently manage your waste – how many bins, how much waste you have etc.

This survey is the baseline survey to first get a general idea of household waste in Cobh. We will be conducting and analysing research on this over the coming months. *It is open for residents of the Great Island only for now*

Survey link – https://qfreeaccountssjc1.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3xw7JI3ghLvTC3s

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Cobh Zero Waste Conversations; A Sustainable Christmas Dinner

This Thursday we are hosting an online talk with Ellie O’Byrne on the subject of ‘A Sustainable Christmas Dinner’. Ellie O’Byrne is a local journalist whose work has explored low waste and food sustainability for many years. Her new podcast on Irish food sustainability ‘Greenbites’ is an incredible resource. Join us for an informal conversation and Q&A session on how we can do better this Christmas in of eating sustainably and preventing food waste. For those who cannot attend we will provide a recording of the event here.

For more information on Greenbites: http://www.greenbites.ie

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81393110878?pwd=QW45Y1pvK01FMXhacEcvc3lITWc4QT09

Meeting ID: 813 9311 0878

Passcode: 227181

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What is Fast Fashion? & 5 ways to Avoid It!

By Dearbhla Richardson

So, what is Fast Fashion?

Oxford dictionary’s definition of fast fashion is as follows; inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. 

What that means is huge business’ creating new clothing in bulk, every time there is a shift in the market.

 These businesses’ are usually large corporations that make their money through exploiting people (usually through exploiting people of colour in developing nations). 

Take Mahmud Kamani for example. Kamani owns Boohoo, a large online shopping site. Kamani has recently come under fire for paying British workers as little as £3.50 (€3.84) an hour, and for disregarding social distancing rules within his company. All the while, producing hypocritical t-shirts with slogans like “stay home” “lockdown” and “2020 is canceled”. 

People were outraged to discover that people were being treated so horribly by Boohoo, and justly so! 

However, if this is how Kamani treats his staff in the U.K. one can only begin to imagine how his staff in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan are treated. 

Many Fast-Fashion companies outsource to Developing Nations, to lower production costs. In 2013, one thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine people died in a Bangladesh factory collapse (Rana Plaza building). To put that into perspective, it is just over four hundred people less than those who died aboard the Titanic. 

Nevertheless, if you ask a teenager from Cork about the Titanic, they will have several comments, and might even be able to rattle off a few names of those who died, but if you asked that same teenager about the collapse of the Bangladesh Factory in 2013, they likely will have never heard of it. Despite the collapse being seven years ago the Titanic is fresher in people’s minds. 

How do we avoid it?

In order to avoid Fast Fashion, I think visualizing how the product was made can be very helpful in reminding you why you shouldn’t purchase from said company.

 Say, for example, I was walking into Penney’s and upon entering the building I saw garment-workers being abused by their managers. I then saw the product I wanted, and instead of coming to that garment- worker’s aid, I instead stepped over them to pick up the product and paid their manager the money for said product. By buying from Fast- Fashion retailers, that is the industry you are supporting. 

To give that some context, the t-shirt you are buying for €3, could have been made by somebody who has died, from the way it was made, and the inhumane treatment of Garment workers. 

Fast fashion items are usually cheap and not made to last long. Instead look for good quality, long lasting clothes from reputable brands. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

 Children are as young as 6 or 7 years old when they start working at a sweatshop for up to 16 hours per day. 

There are many fast-fashion alternatives, an incredible upside to these alternatives, is that a lot of them are sustainable! Here are our 5 fast fashion alternatives:

  1. Upcycling for one is incredibly useful. Save clothes from landfills by repurposing them!! I have three wonderful tops that I made out of old pairs of ripped leggings and tights if you have anything repurposed like this please leave a comment below!! 
  2. Second-hand clothing shops, North Main Street in Cork City is full of these hidden gems! We have a St. Vincent De Paul clothing shop down in Ticknock and an NCBI shop down on East Beach. 
  3. Vintage Clothing can get incredibly expensive, however there is a Facebook page called Peach Vintage, which is full of affordable, beautiful vintage clothing. 
  4. Depop and Nu Wardrobe are clothing sites, Depop is where you can sell your second-hand clothing, and Nu Wardrobe is a site in which you can exchange clothing, but get it back afterward!! 
  5. Sustainable sites such as Lucy and Yak, Know the Origin, People Tree, Brothers We Stand, By Laura Ella, Shelf Lyfe, and many more!!

Understandably kids grow fast, there aren’t always second-hand options available, and we must never victimize those who cannot afford to shop sustainably. Everyone is on their own sustainable journey. 

If you are purchasing from a Fast Fashion retailer, try to purchase things in physical shops rather than online as I recently discovered to my utmost horror that a lot of clothing, if returned online, will be incinerated rather than returned to the shelf, out of convenience to them. 

I know a lot of people aren’t aware of this waste, but hey, we all start somewhere. 

And if you can, Start now. x

Find more tips for your home here!

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Action Days

Cobh Zero Waste has held many action days and outreach events to bring awareness to our group and highlight just some of the solutions to pressing issues such as pollution and climate change. These have included zero-waste workshops, seminars on waste management from experts, our stall at Cobh Farmers’ Market, and a talk from zero-waste expert and influencer Bea Johnson

Last year our volunteers organized a school conference with the Green Schools committees of each of the schools on the island, where each group could showcase their work on sustainability within their school, something we’re hopeful about doing again when public health will allow for it! 

We’ve hosted initiatives such as a repair café and clothes swaps in Cobh, and held community outreach meetings working with SECAD’s “My Town My Plan” scheme, where we’ve invited members of the community to come and share what they’d like to see in a low-waste, sustainable town. Ideas shared included community-supported agriculture, an anaerobic digestor, and the establishment of “walking buses” (supervised walking groups on the way to and from school) for school children. 

One of our primary objectives as a group is to bring awareness to plastic pollution and waste management; we’ve held supermarket action days where we’ve promoted our group and asked people to participate in our action by leaving unnecessary plastic packaging behind them. 

Future Action Days

Going forward (in a post-Covid future!) we hope to massively tackle waste in our town by virtually eliminating single-use plastics. We’ve started by investing in 2000 reusable cups that can be used by local clubs and community groups for large events such as road races where plastic cups have been the go-to. Cobh Tidy Towns will provide large water containers to go with them, and volunteers will distribute and collect them on behalf of the group they have been loaned to. This scheme will be open to any group, as long as the cups are returned clean and dry! 

If you have an idea for an initiative or event you’d like to see in Cobh please don’t hesitate to get in touch; you can email us here! We are always delighted to welcome new members and hear new ideas. 

Tree Planting Action Day in 2019 with Cobh Community Allotments

Síofra Richardson || 13-June-2020

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The Great Island Energy Plan

As our way of living here on earth changes our systems need to change alongside them. To be different and better, these new systems need to be inclusive, fair and kinder to the earth. The movement toward these fairer systems is known as a just transition; where everyone no one is left behind. The Great Island Energy Plan is here to help us do just that.

One of the key areas that need to be transformed is our energy system. When we asked the people of Cobh at an outreach event in October 2019 what they wanted to see change drastically on our island this was one of the main discussion topics.

Transforming the energy usage of an island the size of ours with 15,000 people using energy at home, while traveling and at work daily is a huge challenge. But every challenge is an opportunity for growth. With that in mind we are asking ourselves questions like these ones;

How can we make this change where people feel included, informed and supported?

How can we help people save energy at home?

Can we enable people access grant aid to retrofit their homes?

What is the best way to enhance electric car usage and access on the Great Island? 

We have a few ideas and projects in motion which I will tell you about below. However, we know that the best way to make this transition is to hear from you so if you have ideas and solutions please let us know.

Our Energy Plan

Our first port of call is to create an energy-independent community building on the island. This building will be a safe haven and act as an example for people to see an energy-efficient building in the community This will mean installing a renewable energy source, likely solar panels, on the building, educating staff and users on energy saving techniques and doing a deep retrofit to fit it out with insulation and heat pumps. We’re discussing the idea with a few community groups and we have applied for funding with the LEADER program. We expect to see this completed within 3 years.

We are in the process of developing a partnership with the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI). As a Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) we are eligible for funding to create an Energy Master Plan which will act as a road map to transform our community. Our vision is a zero carbon, circular economy on our island where nothing is wasted and renewable energy fuels our way of life.

Since September 2019, members of Cobh Zero Waste have been learning about and developing an Energy Plan for our island with the help of local development agencies like SECAD and the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI). Through a community support program, we have a working plan which we have submitted to Cork County Council to be considered for the county development plan 2022-2028.

Through all of this, we know that supporting one another is the most important part. To facilitate this we will soon be having monthly “Energy & Coffee” morning (Hopefully in person!). Where folks like you and I can meet to hear from experts and chat about our successes, failures, worries and ideas as we switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy on the Great Island. Keep an eye out for updates on this on our social media pages and we’ll see you then!

If you want to be involved in the process on the Energy Plan Committee please get in touch we would love to hear from you.

Working together to make our energy plan a reality

Melanie O’Driscoll || 11-June-2020

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Cobh’s Repair Cafe


Cobh Zero Waste held the first Cobh’s Repair Cafe in the Sirius Art Centre on the 23rd November 2019 and it was a great success. Lots of happy people turned up to have their broken and damaged items repaired, some came for some upcycling advice and some just came for a nice chat and a cuppa.

What happens at Cobh’s Repair Cafe.


The range of repair services that was on offer was very impressive. We had;

Tech-savvy people repairing computers and smartphones,
an Electrician fixing broken electrical items.
Carpenters fixing all kinds of furniture.
sewing and clothing experts on hand to fix, patch and seam peoples clothes.
Even a bicycle repair service for those broken chains and wheels.
We also had people repairing broken crockery, vases and knick-knacks. It was a great range of free helpful advice.

“Some people came to have a bicycle fixed and learned how to repair a broken zip on a jacket that was destined for the clothes bank.”

Some people also came for some advice on items they had at home and were unsure about whether they could be repaired or not. People asked about damaged TVs, broken couches and chairs, Ipads and phones, toys and mirrors and all kinds of stuff that may otherwise have ended up in the bin.

Bike Reapirs

Our experts were able to give advice on most of these items on how their lives could be extended with some simple tips.
One of the great things about the repair cafe was the amount of free information and knowledge that was available for everyone to avail of.

Some people came to have a bicycle fixed and learned how to repair a broken zip on a jacket that was destined for the clothes bank. Another person came to ask about repairing an old chair and also learned how to have his old clock fixed. It was great to see so many people coming away with the information they needed to save that broken item they had given up hope on.


The setting in the Sirius Centre was perfect and lent a real sense of community to the event with people popping in and out for help and a chat and even a nice slice of cake and it was great to see so many people using this service. Some people came just for a quick look and ended up staying for an hour watching all the repairers working their magic.


Due to Covid 19, we have been unable to hold another repair cafe as we had planned but with restrictions lifting we here at Cobh Zero Waste will be busy planning our next Repair Cafe as soon as it is safe to do hold one.


So don’t throw away that broken stool, don’t dump that cracked vase and don’t discard that old coat that you love, keep it for Cobh’s Repair Cafe and we will look forward to fixing it for you.


Many thanks go to all the repairers who gave their time, advice and skill for free and to the wonderful people at the Sirius Arts Centre for the use of their space, and to Collette Lewis of the Local Know-How Project.


Keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages for Cobh’s newxt Repair Cafe coming to you soon.

Learning how to sew at Cobh’s Repair Cafe

Bearnard O’Dea || 15-June-2020

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Cobh Zero Waste Market Stall

The Cobh Zero Waste Market stall, in operation since January 2019, located in Cobh’s lovely promenade is open on the last Friday of every month from 9A.M. to 1 P.M, we are back open since the 12th of June 2020 (Practising social distancing of course!!)

We are currently recruiting for volunteers who would be available Friday Mornings. We are hoping with more volunteers that Cobh Zero Waste market stall can be at the market more frequently during the month.

 Our volunteer slots will be two hours long, Friday morning at 9-11, or 11-1.

 Please contact us via the text box below/ through any of our social media or send us an email, if this is something that you would be interested in. 

 So far, our products available include: 

What To Expect at The Cobh Zero Waste Market Stall.

  • Lilly’s washing up liquid
  • Lilly’s laundry liquid 
  • Lilly’s degreaser
  • Lilly’s toilet cleaner
  • Lilly’s citrus multi surface spray cleaner (all of our Lilly’s products will be sold  @15% of standard retail cost &  we currently sell either a bottle or a refill for all of Lilly’s products)
  • Palm oil free soaps
  • palm oil free deodorant bars
  • palm oil free shaving/body bars
  • palm oil free scrubs (made with organic coconut)
  • Plastic free greeting cards (Beautiful photographs taken by Sally O’ Reilly & packaged in a biodegradable wrap)
  • Washable face masks €10, with proceeds going to Cobh Hospital.

We hope to stock shampoo bars and refills soon, we would love to hear what you would like us to stock, if you have any suggestions please drop them below. 

We are also seeking a more permanent location for refills, so if you have any suggestions regarding that please email us!

Our Market Stall is the best way to chat to us and hear what’s going on!

We are looking forward to seeing you, so don’t be shy!

If you’d like more info about volunteering an occasional Friday morning, click here.

Cobh Zero Waste Market Stall with Ruth, Orsi and Moggy

Dearbhla Richardson || 9-June-2020

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18 Zero Waste Hacks For Leaving the House

Leaving the house and remaining zero waste takes a little planning, but probably not as much as you think. Remember, not so long ago we didn’t have to pay for plastic bags; these days bringing your reusables to the supermarket is as second-nature as grabbing your wallet.

Read through our easy hacks that will help you make a big difference when you’re out and about.

Zero Waste Hacks For Leaving the House.

  • Try to stop impulse buying. Before making a purchase ask yourself do you really need this and why am I buying this? Be honest with yourself and NEVER shop when you are hungry! That might help reduce your waist too!
  • Can you walk, cycle or use public transport to get where you’re going rather than driving? Can we make another “reducing your waist” joke?!
  • If you’re planning to get takeaway, ask if there are compostable or recyclable container options. If the answer is no, you’ll at least have raised it with the business. If the answer is yes, shout it from the rooftops so other people can support the business. (This is one of our favourite Zero Waste Hacks For Leaving the House; use social media or word of mouth to tell people every time you encounter a business doing their best).
  • Check out our Zero Waste Shopping in Cobh page to find out what businesses can offer you eco alternatives to everyday items.
  • Keep a shopping bag folded and in your handbag or pocket so you can always refuse a plastic bag at the shop. 
  • Keep a fork and handkerchief in your bag in case you buy food on the go – it saves having to use a plastic one. 
  • Join your local library and start swapping books with your friends.
  • Remember that you don’t need to buy zero waste/plastic-free products to start your journey. Using what you already have is always more sustainable than buying something new. 
  • Share your journey with others – none of us are perfect and we are all in this together. Join the Zero Waste Ireland community on Facebook to get inspired by, and inspire, other people who are discovering clever hacks for reducing their waste. 
  • When heading to a party, wrap gifts in newspapers/magazines, your kids’ artwork (make a big deal of how special this makes it) or even re-usable textiles. Wrapping paper is normally not recyclable and is weirdly expensive. 
  • Keep the ribbons from those luxury boxes of chocolates and reuse them when wrapping gifts.
  • When upgrading your phone make sure to check local charities as many will take your old device and give it to someone in need rather than throwing it out. Those metals are a precious resource!
  • When you do buy things, go for quality. A well-made product will last longer than a cheap one. It may cost more in the short term but will last much longer.
  • One of our favourite zero waste hacks for leaving the house can happen before you even walk out the door. Check classified ads like Gumtree, websites like eBay, and Facebook Marketplace before you make a purchase. You might find what you need secondhand or even nearly-new, often for a much better price too.
  • Rechargeable batteries are great and work out much cheaper in the long run. 
  • Put a “No Junk Mail” sign next to your letterbox so you don’t come home to waste you didn’t choose. Switch to paperless for your bills like electricity and broadband; you might be surprised if you saw how much paper one year of bills uses. All service providers offer this service now and will simply email you your bills. 
  • When giving presents make it yourself or re-gift something you already have. Everyone loves something thoughtfully handmade with love.
  • Before throwing stuff out, put them on a buy and sell sites or offer them free to take away. There is always someone who may find a use for it. The Cobh Freecycling group is ideal for passing things along locally.

We want to hear your zero waste hacks for leaving the house. Join the conversation in the comments below or find us on Facebook.

Want more Zero Waste tips? Check out our room-by-room tips here.