11 May 2020
By Mary Bermingham
Cork City and County households will generate a combined 32,900 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging waste in 2020. Cork City residents generate 11,000 tonnes annually, with Cork County Generating 21,900.
To put this in perspective, if this 32,900 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging waste were in the form of just empty 2ltr single-use plastic drinks bottles it would be equivalent in weight to 598,000,000 (598 million) bottles.
That’s according to Simon Ruddy, who has launched the CUSP initiative (Cease Using Single-use Plastic), which provides a free mobile app to help families measure and reduce the volumes of single-use plastic packaging waste they generate: Simon added ‘We spent 2 years researching the single-use plastic packaging waste crises, including the factors that are driving the continued growth in its use; despite all of the warnings about the risks posed to our waterways, wildlife and increasingly too, human health, due to the growing level of microplastic found in the human food chain’.
Scientist at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales Australia recently reported that we are each ingesting on average 5 grams of micro plastics every week, which is equivalent to eating one of our debit or credit cards weekly. Many of us might feel like eating our credit card! However, with over 140 chemical compounds used in the production of plastic food packaging known to be hazordous, scientist are concerned about the longer term effects on human health.
‘We wanted to understand more about ‘why’ consumers are slow to move away from single-use plastic packaging, despite all of the information available about the risks, both environmentally and to human health’ Simon went on to say. ‘Ultimately, we discovered it comes down to the way the numbers are reported. All people hear about is the ‘millions of tonnes’ of single-use plastic packaging waste floating in our oceans etc. This leaves people wondering ‘what’s the point… my small contribution to tackling single-use plastic is hardly going to make any difference’.
‘This is where CUSP has stepped in. We take the big global numbers on single-use plastic packaging waste and distil them down into micro targets people can relate to; but not just random targets either. CUSP has aligned county, local and household targets with the UN sustainability goal for the elimination of all non-essential single-use plastic packaging by 2030, which accounts for 70% of current global consumption’.
We applied this 70% reduction goal to Irish households so people would have targets they can relate to.
Annually, each Irish household generates on average 171kgs of single-use plastic packaging waste, which is the highest per household in the EU, where the average is 113kgs. To put this is perspective, 171kgs of single-use plastic packaging waste is equivalent to 3,000 empty 2ltr single-use plastic drinks bottles.
For each household in Cork to achieve a 70% reduction by 2030; from 171kgs per annum currently, down to 51kgs per annum by 2030, it would need to reduce by 12kgs annually. That’s just 1kg monthly. ‘1kg monthly isn’t a big ask from a total annual single-use plastic waste pile of 171kg per household’ Simon explained’. ‘Repeat this reduction each year through 2030 and very soon we can knock Ireland off that embarrassing top-spot as the worst offender per household in the EU’!
CUSP recently completed a pilot launch of its new app in the Connacht Region, with 200 users achieving average reductions of 35% in the volume of single-use plastic packaging waste they generate. If replicated across Cork City and County this would equate to a reduction of 795 tonnes in the volume of single-use plastic packaging waste generated in Cork annually.
‘The CUSP app is available to download free for both iOS and android devices – search ‘CUSP: Single-Use Plastic Calc’ Simon continued ‘Participants simply input their current number-of-units for 22 of the more common items of single-use plastic packaging found in Irish homes, which are listed on the app. The CUSP app does all the calculations and conversions to kilograms. Then, after 30 days and following CUSP ‘Hints & Tips for Reducing’, users input their new reduced volumes, from which they will immediately see if they have hit that 1kg target’.
‘The CUSP Initiative is fun, free and purposeful, making it the perfect family activity for Cork families during these challenging times.