The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched a powerful environmental campaign over the past week. USI, which is the national representative body for students in Ireland with over 374,000 members launched Plastic Reduction Week with results from a study that focused on Ireland’s contribution to plastic harming the environment and contributing to climate change.
It was found that Ireland is the number one offender in the European Union for plastic waste, producing 300 million tons every year. According to the study, which was published both in English and Irish, about half of this plastic is single use plastic. Using the hashtag #USIPlasticReductionWeek, shared across as USI Social Media platforms.
Another startling fact from the study was that 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is disposed of in the sea each year – “It kills the precious wildlife and destroys the fragile ecosystems that we rely on.” The USI identified the three main producers of plastic waste in Ireland. These are everyday household waste, which is plastic disposed improperly and in landfills escapes into the environment through wind dispersal or bad practice. The second, micro plastics in products and clothing, which are tiny pieces of plastic contained in many everyday cosmetic hygiene products such as shower gels, face washes, and toothpastes when they get washed down the drain and make their way into the environment. The third category identified is industrial waste from poor practice and production; poor standards and practices for waste disposal in the industrial sector as well as fall off from the production process of items consisting of plastic alone.
On Friday November 13th, the USI culminated its Plastic Reduction week in challenging students to do a ‘Plastic-Free Friday.’ The aim of this event was to show students how easy it is to go plastic free.’
A positive to emerge from the pandemic, however, is that electricity use decreased by 42% on UCC campus since March 2020. Another positive fact provided from UCC Green Campus is that as of May 1st 2020, 100% of the University’s energy is supplied from renewable sources.
UCC Green Campus, which was a pilot Green Campus programme in 2007, saw UCC becoming the first university in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the Foundation for Environmental Education, the ten year anniversary of which occurred in March 2020. The UCC Green Campus Autumn 2020 Newsletter addressed the impact Covid-19 has had on UCC Sustainability. “There has been much speculation over the last six months regarding the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic on the environment. Many UCC voices have featured in the media discussing this very topic. As we head into the new academic term, it’s clear that the pandemic will have both positive and negative impacts on our university’s environmental footprint.”
The newsletter also addressed the challenges posed by disposable items as a result of the pandemic. “Unfortunately you are likely to see a temporary increase in the use of disposable items on campus, both to protect our community from the virus and also in our catering outlets. We would urge everyone to invest in reusable facemasks and avoid the single-use plastic ones. With regard to our catering outlets, the return to disposables is a temporary one and we remind everyone that the vast majority of these items are fully compostable and should be placed in the food waste bin. We are still committed to becoming single-use plastic free and fully intend on driving this agenda forward when the time is right to do so.”