Taking on the canteen

Posted on: 3rd April, 2018

Category: Trash Talk

Contributor: Allison Roberts

Allison Roberts of Exploding Tree is documenting her family’s self-imposed challenge to create zero rubbish for a whole year. If you would like to join Allison in her quest, or suggest some tips to help her achieve it, you will find her blog at www.explodingtree.com/cuttherubbish.

Our cut-the-rubbish project has been running for six weeks now and there have been some major successes, and a few struggles. I have been so delighted by the shopkeepers and business owners who are willing to support us in lowering our waste. In particular our butcher, Mike O’Neill, has been great in using zero-plastic when serving us; we normally bring our own container but when we forget, he wraps our meat in paper. Meanwhile our coffee man, Shane Kelleher of Red Strand Coffee, allows me to return my coffee bag for refill, making coffee a completely package-free endeavor – I’m delighted not to have to give up my cuppa!

The market on a Friday in Clonakilty has also helped enormously with veggies, fish, olives, apples and bread all purchased without the need for packaging – and the Refill Station will be my saviour for around-the-house cleaning type stuff.

So those are the successes; the hard bits have been lunching out – those tiny packets with a two-year-old who wants a bit o’ketchup and butter. I want this to be a fun experiment for him as well and so I have brought back a few of these already to start my ‘waste capsule’ in the shed (where I am keeping all waste and recyclables for the year). An easy solution I found is just to move those bits off our table, then he doesn’t even ask, or I stick my nose into the kitchen and ask for a bit straight from the bottle, which for some reason, I find more difficult than it should be.

I’ve recently discovered most tea bags are actually made with plastic, so don’t biodegrade. We’ve switched to loose-leaf peppermint tea, and infusions from the garden are fine, but for the regular kind of tea – even loose-leaf from the shop has that lightweight metallic-y stuff inside the box to keep the tea fresh. So I guess we’ll just be drinking a lot more coffee!

I’m producing more recycling then I was hoping; yoghurt and icecream pots, pickle jars and wine bottles have all featured this month. The plan is not to be too hard on recycling at first but to keep chipping away at it, making cutting-the-rubbish ‘normal’ in our house.

On April 21, the lovely people at Friends of the Earth are encouraging people to ‘shop and drop’: buy your groceries as normal but leave all excess packaging with the cashier at the counter. The campaign is also writing to six major grocery retailers to suggest ways to reduce their plastic waste. To find out more or get involved visit www.foe.ie.

My main cut-the-rubbish celebration this month is ‘Gráinne’s petition’. I have known Gráinne for years and her mum recently told me that Gráinne has started a petition to introduce a small charge for plastic cutlery in her school, Sacred Heart in Clonakilty, rather than it being provided for free. She hopes that, like plastic bags, a small charge will be enough to encourage students to cut back on single-use cutlery in the canteen. To find out a bit more about what makes Gráinne tick, I decided to interview her for this month’s column.

She tells me her mother inspires her most because she’s very passionate about global warming and not using so much plastic, “aside from that she’s also the person I always go to for advice or when I just need someone to comfort me.”

Gráinne explains why she feels there should be a 10c charge for plastic cutlery in her school canteen. “There are about 600 students in my school and I would guess that about 150 pieces of cutlery end up in the bin each day. If people buy the forks, which they then throw away, they may feel as if they are throwing away their own money. Maybe they’ll get fed up with that waste and start bringing in their own cutlery. I think 10 cents is just enough so that you don’t throw the plastic cutlery away without thinking.

“I am hoping to get 100-200 signatures and after that I will bring them to the year-head, the student council or the vice principal.

“I am also hoping to send the petition home with some friends for their parents and other family members to sign.”

I am totally inspired by Gráinne’s courage and willpower. Young people can lead the way on movements and they have the ability to make a huge impact. She has been running her petition for a month now and if anyone wants to sign in support I will have an electronic copy up on my blog at www.explodingtree.com/cuttherubbish

Over and out! A

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