The calls for urgent climate action were heard loud and clear during the election. As the Government draws up its All of Government Plan on Climate Disruption, now is the time for Ireland to act to reduce the climate impact of our resource consumption.
Recent studies have found that up to 40% of global emissions are due to extraction, manufacturing and distribution of goods. We need to move away from our current disposable culture (take-make-waste) towards sustainable reuse of goods we have already — through repair, reuse and recycling. Immediate steps need to be taken to address this and move to a more Circular Economy by Government, businesses and individuals.
Currently only about 3% of our goods are reused compared with 40% recycled and the rest recovered or disposed. Community Reuse Network Ireland (CRNI) members, who are reuse, recycling and waste prevention social enterprises reused over 31kt goods in 2018 that would otherwise have gone for recovery or disposal. This saved over 220k tonnes of carbon.
They also provided more than 660 full-time jobs, 1,600 training positions and 5,800 volunteer opportunities in urban and rural communities across the island with an estimated social value of over €39 million. The turnover of their combined activities amounted to €66 million and more than 11 million customers were reached.
Claire Downey, CRNI Executive, said: “We are proud of our members’ impact, but a lot more has to be done to get the full potential of a more Circular Economy in Ireland. Repair, reuse and recycling must be prioritised in policy and by individuals, businesses and the public sector when making day-to-day decisions. This would reduce the demand for new goods and in turn reduce pressure on our climate due to extraction and manufacturing as well as reducing waste.”
Climate action for Government: In addition to including the Circular Economy in policies, additional investment in those who can support the implementation of legislation will be critical to make headway on the climate crisis. Revising existing policies to reflect new Circular Economy obligations in the coming year will also be necessary. Beyond legislation, the public sector can make low-carbon choices through green procurement. Recent CRNI research shows that Government can help to use the estimated 1.2 million potentially reusable bulky items thrown out every year by committing to Bulky Item Reuse in their procurement decisions.
Climate action for Business: Behind every product, there are resources and emissions resulting from resource use, manufacturing, packaging and transportation. CRNI members have found it increasingly difficult to repair or refurbish goods, due to poor product design and the design phase of products is critical in driving effective reuse and recycling. Ireland’s own design and manufacturing industry can show leadership and innovation through the green design of their products in a durable, repairable and low-carbon manner.
Climate action for Individuals: It is estimated that Irish householders reuse less than 5% of the amount of waste discarded every year, even though people continuously reuse certain items on a daily basis. People can reuse every day, in their homes, the workplace and during leisure time. Resources for reuse, repair and recycling activities ranging from buying or donating pre-loved items to borrowing, swapping, repairing and upcycling existing items and social enterprises who can help can be found on CRNI’s website. Individuals can also look for ReMark, Ireland’s newest quality mark for second hand goods developed by CRNI.
CRNI is leading an EPA Green Enterprise project Circular Textiles, which will test the impact of three different separate collection systems for textiles and explore how we could manage the additional quantity of textiles that are collected. This project will be concluded in 2022.
For more information about the project see here.