Actors, rugby flanker and restaurateur sign up for ‘plastic-free’ challenge in Galway

City major targets single-use plastics in week-long event

Pupils from St Nicholas’ Parochial School in Galway putting their message across at Eyre Square during the launch of Galway Plastic Free Week on Monday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Pupils from St Nicholas’ Parochial School in Galway putting their message across at Eyre Square during the launch of Galway Plastic Free Week on Monday. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

Ros na Rún actors, a rugby flanker and restaurateur are among participants in Galway’s initial “plastic-free” week, spearheaded by the city’s first citizen.

Mayor Pearce Flannery (Fine Gael) plans to use a “keep cup” for coffee, a shampoo bar and wooden pen throughout the seven-day challenge that aims to highlight the negative impacts on the environment of single-use plastic.

Connacht Rugby flanker Jake Heenan, Ros na Rún actress Máirín de Buitléir, NUI Galway students’ union president Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh, Galway 2020 chief executive Hannah Kiely and Marine Institute chief executive Dr Peter Heffernan are also among a team tackling the challenge from February 5th.

Each “ambassador” was presented on Monday with a cloth bag containing a reusable “keep”cup for tea and coffee, hand soap and shampoo bars, a bamboo toothbrush, reusable water bottle, wooden pens, sporks or re-usable spoon/forks, and a metal and wood dishwashing brush.

Mayor Flannery said that as an angler he was aware of the environmental problems posed by a material that can take up to 500 years to decompose, and which is killing marine creatures and infiltrating the food chain – as illustrated by David Attenborough in the final episode of the recent BBC television series, Blue Planet II.

Galway was the first Irish city to initiate the three-bin system of composting, recycling and landfill litter in 2002 – the same year as Ireland introduced the plastic bag levy.

“So the city is open to change, and we are hoping our effort will be a learning experience for everyone,” Mr Flannery said, admitting that a dry run he had undertaken to cut out plastic usage had proved to be very difficult. “And we are hoping to make it an annual event.”

NUI Galway is supporting the project, along with local schools. The university has already replaced bins with “my recycler” containers which students use to sort rubbish, as part of its sustainability strategy.

Galway City Council holds European Green Leaf status, and its co-ordinator Arlene Finn said that the aim was to enlist the support of businesses and residents. Up to 50 Galway businesses support the Recupán campaign which offers discounts on reusable coffee cups, she pointed out.

The initiative is different to the “zero waste” project being undertaken in Cashel, Co Tipperary, but similar in trying to change habits, Ms Finn said.

Also participating in “plastic-free week” are Mayor Anna Tenje, of Vaxjo, Sweden, and Mayor Carlos Manuel Antunes Bernardes of Torres Vedras, Portugal. Both cities also have European Green Leaf status, which recognises a good environmental record and commitment to generating green growth.