Attendees at a recent Brown Bag Lunch hosted by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice learnt about the importance of pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle and taking the correct approach to recycling.
Speaking at the event, Mindy O’Brien, coordinator of VOICE – the member-based Irish environmental charity – told the group that our approach to waste reduction should comprise three important strategies. The first step involves seeking to minimise how much waste we produce by, for example, reusing food leftovers and minimising food waste, and buying loose items and goods with less packaging. The second step is about repair and reuse (for example, by repairing shoes and clothing, computers and technological items), and finally, the last step requires us to recycle, and to recycle correctly.
Referring to the prevalence of take-away coffee cups in contemporary society (which are generally non-recyclable), Mindy explained how increasingly, many of the products we use have once-off, short-term usage.
Catherine Devitt, environmental justice officer with the Jesuit Centre, explained that although we have known about the importance of recycling for some time, recycling rates across the European Union remain low. Approximately only a quarter of all waste is recycled and just five percent reused. In Ireland, 333kg of residual waste is generated per person annually.
Recycling is important because it extends the lifecycle and value of a product. Consider, for example, an item of plastic, which is made from crude-oil, a valuable yet non-renewable resource. By recycling plastic, we save over two-thirds of the energy required to produce that item from raw material in the first instance.
Mindy emphasised to the group that recyclable items that have contained food and drinks – such as aluminium or tin cans – or plastic wrappings and containers can contaminate the whole contents of the green (recyclables) bin if not washed. A contaminated bin will not be recycled, going instead to land-fill or incineration. If in doubt, Mindy advised that contact be made with the relevant bin company to determine what can and cannot be recycled.
Indeed, much of what was discussed echoed what Pope Francis reminds us in Laudato Si’: “a constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment” . Certainly, living with ‘the conviction that less is more’ sets us on a more meaningful path to zero-waste.
Catherine invited the Jesuit community and works to reflect on their waste reduction and recycling habits, while stressing that she is available to assist with the journey towards achieving a zero-waste lifestyle.
More information on zero-waste can be found at: http://zerowasteireland.com/