Alex’s Communities Field Note

Week 11: Communities Field Note (5-13-13)


Solid waste management. What in the world is that? It just sounds like a big intimidating scary jumble of words that has absolutely nothing to do with me. Reduce, reuse, recycle. What does that mean? Ireland doesn’t have plastic bags at the grocery store? What is that nonsense? Read on to learn how Cork is combating the issue of solid waste management.

How do nations meet communities’ needs?

Nations as a whole have a huge responsibility to uphold or keep when it comes to meeting community’s needs. Let us think for a minute about how our nation, the United States of America, has to do and process firstly at a national level and then it moves down to a state level and then finally all the way down to the local community’s needs. That is a lot for a nation to do! Alas, the small but very strong and supportive island nation of Ireland is doing its absolute best to meet the needs of all local communities.

What community need did I learn about?

The biggest issue that the nation of Ireland is attempting to address in local communities is the issue pertaining to or relating to solid waste management. At first solid waste management sounds like a big intimidating or scary, idea that has nothing to do with yourself but hopefully by the end of this article you will think otherwise. Maybe just maybe begin to brainstorm ways for you to help in your local community!

First, let us break down this idea of solid waste management and try to understand what it means and why it is so important in Cork’s community and why we should care about it. Solid waste management simply means the ways in which we dispose or get rid of our rubbish or trash as we call it.

In today’s world everyone’s opinions about solid waste management are changing. Before people just used to take everything they didn’t want or need and throw it into the bin or garbage can without ever giving it a second though. Now especially in Cork we heard words like reduce, reuse and recycle. Have you ever hear any of those words before? If so, you are already on your way to helping in the efforts of improving solid waste management worldwide!

Reduce means to simply use less of something. An example of this can be seen in Cork’s groceries stores. Many companies have begun to use less plastic when they package food. Instead of having plastic bags in the produce sections of the store people either put their food directly in their cloth bags or into a basket.

Reuse simply means to use something over and over. An example of this can be seen when people use their reusable water bottles. They fill them up at home before they leave for the day and just keep adding water from the tap throughout the day. This helps in lowering the amount of plastic water bottles being purchased.

Recycling refers to separating your trash into separate bins that allow it to be recycled into something new instead of just sitting in a landfill. An example of this can be seen in almost every home in Cork city. The city does an excellent job of having an easy and efficient recycling system that really encourages people to help in saving our planet through recycling. They have a variety of different bins that people can separate their trash into and on Monday morning simply roll it out to the curb and they city handles it from there.

Why does the community have this need?

Changing Cork’s Solid Waste Management Plan in order to reduce, reuse and recycle has been of extreme importance since 1995 when the Cork Waste Management Strategy was implemented or started. People in Cork and all throughout Ireland are concerned about continually improving solid waste management because they care about the environment. Irish people are extremely eco-friendly and want to do everything in their power to protect the earth.

Is this need being met, how?

Yes! This need is being met in 100 different ways throughout Cork and all of Ireland. This article is going to address some of the more common and more interesting ways in which people are dealing with solid waste management.

  • 1. Are there ways or places to recycle in the local community, and if so, is it easy for people to access?

Yes! There are loads of places to recycle throughout the “green” city of Cork. Cork is known for being one of the most eco-friendly cities in Ireland. In 1995 the city realized that people were not living their lives in a very respectable way in regards to the environment. The city decided to implement a plan called “The Cork Waste Management Strategy.” This plan is in effect until 2020 and the goal of this plan is to reduce the amount of solid waste in Cork from 225,000 tons, which was the current amount in 1995, down to 200,000 tons by the year 2020. If this plan had not been created the amount of solid waste in Cork would have been 450,000 tons by the year 2020.

The way that this plan works is mainly through informing people how they can incorporate the three R’s into their everyday lives. In order to inform people in the community the city sends out informational newsletters, just like the newsletters your school sends home. This newsletter is sent out three times a year and informs people what types of items the city could recycle for free and what days people should put their recycling bins on the side of the road in order to be collected.

Other ways that the city informs people is through advertising. The city advertises in the local newspaper and at every local bus stop. The goal of advertising was to aid in making people more aware of the Cork Waste Management Strategy and to inform them how to “greenify” (make then more eco-friendly) their lives. The city also provided public speakers to come and speak on important waste management strategies as well as global environmental topics.

Have you ever had a guest speaker come into your school or classroom and present on a certain topic? Well, the city of Cork also did this as part of the Cork Waste Management Strategy. They hired people to go into the schools and teach students about the importance of being more eco-friendly and how even students can help make a difference in saving the planet by reducing, reusing and recycling.

  • 2. What is the public sentiment about the state of the environment, and do young people think they play a role in protecting the environment? If so, how?

The general thoughts concerning the environment in Cork is that everyone is well aware of the current state of the environment and thanks to education strategies through The Cork Waste Management Strategy people are doing everything in their power to help protect the environment.

People are especially aware of the amount of plastic that is wasted each because in recent years Ireland has developed a new approach, or way, to try and reduce the amount of plastic being used. In order to do this Ireland has put a charge on buying plastic bags at the grocery store when people need them to pack up their groceries. Instead of using plastic bags people bring their own reusable cloth, mesh, or firmer plastic bags from home in order to escape the charge associated with buying a plastic bag as well as dirty looks from other shoppers.

I have observed, on multiple occasions, something very interesting when people forget their reusable bag and must make the decision to purchase one or go without. The price of a plastic bag, in Cork, is only 25-30 cents but I have seen people go to such lengths as carrying a giant armful of groceries home rather than buy a plastic bag. The other shoppers waiting in line, as well as the cashier, become slightly annoyed with the person who needs to buy the plastic bag. They are not mad that he has to pay the money for the bag but it has been so widely advertised how bad plastic bags are for the environment that they become annoyed when people do something that works against their efforts to save the planet.

Young people in Cork, especially the students who I have volunteered with, are very aware about the role they play in protecting the environment. Thanks to teachers and guest speakers who explain the students’ role in protecting the environment as well as present in such a way that makes student want to help, everyone works together to do their best in protecting the earth.

An example of how engaged students are at a young age happened just a few weeks ago in my Senior Infants or Kindergarten classroom. The task for the “cleaning buddy” was to go around and pick up the extra paper scraps from a project they had just completed and put them in the recycling bin. Now this little boy was very anxious to see how quickly he could collect everything that he forgot where he was supposed to put the paper scraps and just threw them into the regular rubbish bin, or trash can as we call it.  As he was skipping back to his seat three or four of the students witnessed what he had just done and one little girl in particular told him exactly what she thought. Rosin, pronounced “row-sheen,” told him that he did not put them in the proper bin he was not being a good care taker of the earth.

The boy realizing what he had done quickly turned on his heels and moved the paper to the recyclable bin. The teacher then used this as a teaching moment to remind all of the students that every little bit helps and when we all work together we can help save our beautiful planet.

  • 3. What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about?

The local gym that I use have implemented or started to use many different forms of solutions in order to help reduce, reuse, recycle and promote the people of Cork to do the same. First and most important the gym has swapped old rubbish bins that would get everything thrown in them including paper and plastic bottles with new rubbish bins. These new rubbish bins are actually a three in one deal. There is a bin for recyclable paper and cardboard, plastic water bottles and a bin for general waste.

The gym only has water-bottle refill stations instead of drinking fountains. This is to help prompt people to bring and use their own water bottles. Another interesting thing that the gym has done in order to promote people bringing in their own water bottles is to simply not sell plastic water bottles. Only the coffee shop in the gym sells water bottles and they are at least three euro instead of one euro.

Next something that I had never seen before was when the gym requires people to bring their own towels in order to wipe of the machines or dry their hands instead of supplying people with paper towel.

Finally, when you come out from working out and want to take a shower you have to push a button in order to get the water to come out. These buttons are designed to only run for 30 seconds and then shut off in order to help conserve water.

  • 4. Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years?

I did not find very much information concerning this question when I spoke with people so I had to do a little bit of research in the internet. I found out that in 2010 there was a change that was made to the “Planning and Development Act.” From what I understand this change made it more difficult for planners and developers to get planning and developing permits within the county of Cork. The city changed from a general permit, which did not prompt people to stop and think about the impacts they were going to do to the environment once they built to this new permit. Technically the permit is still the same it is just more difficult to obtain one because if a person in Cork wants to build something they must now go through a lot more tests and inspections to see how they building is going to effect the environment.

  • 5. Are there any youth groups, community organizations, NGO or INGOs actively working to address solid waste management issues in your community? Who are they and what are they doing. What can we learn from them? If possible, take a field trip and check out their work!

Yes! UCC’s Environmental Club held an event where they had a guest speaker come in and discuss how we as college students can make a hug impact on helping to “greenify,” or make our community more eco-friendly, by reducing, reusing and recycling within our own homes and daily lives. They even gave away free magnets and window stickers to hang up in our homes which had a few helpful hints on how to reduce, reuse and recycle throughout the entire day.

At the end of the event we took the extra magnets and window clings and put them up in the bathrooms around campus. We did this in order to help make our campus community more aware of how they could help to save the environment but just changing a few simple things throughout their day like turning off the faucet when they brush their teeth.

  • 6. Work to get information and opinions from local people.

I was extremely fortunate or lucky to have a man by the name of Mark Poland come to my Global Climate Change Class and present on how himself and his team are attempting to make University College Cork an even more eco-friendly campus. Recently the college remodeled the cafeteria area in order to make it more eco-friendly. Now when students come to dispose of their rubbish they have six different options to choose from instead of just two.

When students come up, they must clear their own plates before they return them. When students first get in line the first bin is for organic and bio-degradable waste or extra food that they did not eat. Next is a bin for mixed paper and cardboard, then one for plastic bottles as well as glass bottles and cans. Finally at the end of the line after students have recycled as much as they possibly could there is a bin for general rubbish.

A fun fact that I learned about UCC is that they collect all of the oil that is used in the fryers throughout the campus, clean it and then use it to run the garbage trucks on campus instead of buying diesel fuel to run them on. How cool is that?!? Imagine drying a truck that runs on old oil from a frying machine.

Overall, there are many people in Cork and throughout Ireland that are working together to try and protect the environment through reducing, reusing and recycling. Just think if everyone began to change their habits, just by one thing, how much we could help in saving the environment. If you are really interested in this topic there is a really great website that has even more information and some pretty cool games!

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