Reduce, Reuse………Reopen

30 Sep 2021

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Between 2018 and 2019 the world focused its attention on plastic pollution spurred on by articles and documentaries about it everywhere.

Once an issue that the environmentalists worried about, it was now a topic with wide public awareness. As a response we saw reusable straws and coffee cups sold in almost every shop and café around the county, local groups and campaigners worked towards eliminating single-use plastics. 

Change was happening, driven by citizens!

As with many things, COVID-19 brought all progress to a halt. As a precaution to reduce and curb the spread of Covid we saw an increase of single use items; plastics wrappers, cups, utensils and sachets and all food service moved to take away only.

There was no definitive evidence to show that reuse was unsafe but this was a matter of public health and safety and we all needed to feel protected in order to carry on and support local businesses. 

Then in early 2021 the Irish Food Safety Authority (IFSA) and over 130 worldwide health experts publicly stated that reusables are just as safe as disposables. In the same statement, they also recognised the importance of reuse for the health of the planet. We began to see movements such as “contactless coffee” and water refill stations, which didn’t require you to touch them, popping up. Find them on www.refill.ie

As customers all we can do is encourage restaurants and cafes to go back to reusables, in order to have the confidence to do this they are going to need to see directly from us, their customers, that we feel safe, are willing to spend money and happy to be served our meals and drinks in reusables. They’ve had a rough time as it is, staying in business while paying the extra expense of single-use disposables. Customers and restaurants alike should encourage and support efforts to reopen with reuse. We have some very simple things that you can do to help support and encourage reuse as we move into this new phase of reopening. 

We will finally see a lifting of restrictions on October 22nd which will bring us back to some semblance of “normal” albeit with particular safety measures still in place; self-isolation when we have symptoms and the mask wearing in healthcare settings, indoor retail and on public transport.

With the lifting of restrictions a lot of us will be heading back to our places of work, either on a full time basis or a hybrid of there and home. This move back to the workplace now gives us all the opportunity to try to implement some minor changes to our daily routines and make them stick. 

  • If you can and are comfortable in doing so, why not try to use public transport or start up a car pool with people from your workplace. For those living in urban areas we have had major changes to cycling infrastructure, making it safer and easier to get around on a bike. 
  • If you use public transport for work one simple way to reduce paper waste is to get an annual ticket which you tap on and off with, this can also help you save some money, check out www.taxsaver.ie for more info. 
  • On that morning commute and for that afternoon kick be sure to carry your reusable coffee cup, many cafes are accepting your reusables and many will still reward you for bringing it. Tired of carrying loyalty cards around, forgetting them…..now, like most things, there’s an app for that, check out www.squidloyalty.ie 

  • We all know there are benefits from staying hydrated and you can simply do this and have zero impact on the environment, carrying a water bottle when out and about or at your desk. A lot of businesses will happily refill your bottle for free and there are lots of public drinking fountains popping up. 
  • We’ve all been preparing food at home, learning new recipes, some successful, some not so, but we’ve tried and that's the main thing. Why change that, bring your lunch to work in a lunch box. This also helps to avoid lots of single use items such as sachets of salt, pepper etc along with napkins and single use cutlery. It can be a healthier option as you know exactly what's in there plus more time to enjoy your break.
  • One thing that working from home as taught is that we don’t need to print as much as we may have done previously, try to keep this up when back in the office. 
  • Recycling, for those items that we can’t prevent, be sure to use the bins correctly and if your place  of work doesn't have a three bin system, find out why and try to implement this. 

  • No green team in your place of work? Now’s the time to start one when lots of new procedures are being put in place and implemented. 

You can use the Android My Impact app to measure how many cups and bottles you have prevented become waste.

For more small changes you can make check out our waste less list