OceanWise project – Final Meeting

The OceanWise project, on which I worked for more than three years, drew to a conclusion in late 2022. The final meeting of the project took place in Lisbon and it was a great opportunity to re-connect with all of the partners on the project, whose work I had summarised. I gave a presentation on the final report, summarising all of the project’s findings and conclusions. The final session was recorded and can be seen here (you can spot me at 35 minutes and again at 2hrs 26 minutes, summarising the main conclusions and recommendations of the project).


Celebrating 10 years of Maeve Thornberry and Associates

Since Maeve Thornberry & Associates was established, I have tried my best to keep my carbon footprint to a minimum, using public transport where possible, having video meetings instead of travelling, keeping printing to a minimum and always bringing my reusable cup and water bottle!
In an effort to offset the emissions the business is responsible for, I’ve supported tree planting initiatives, both in Ireland and further afield, since I established the business in 2011 – you can see a selection of the certificates below.

Report on Extruded and Expanded Polystyrene

Repak, in partnership with Maeve Thornberry & Associates and the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government, recently participated in a Europe wide project known as OceanWise. This involved project partners from five European countries (Ireland, Portugal, France, Spain, and the UK).

Finding recycling options for more difficult to recycle materials is part of Repak’s goal, to improve Ireland’s packaging recyclingrates and protect the environment.

The aim of the Oceanwise project is to prevent foamed Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) and Extruded Polystyrene (XPS) plastics from entering the marine environment by identifying best practice recycling opportunities and recommending alternatives to these materials where appropriate.

The contribution by Repak to this project provides key insights into the manufacturers of EPS and XPS products, the applications and users of these materials, as well as the recycling best practices that may be possible to implement across Europe.

View the full report on the Repack website.


Food waste, reuse and other musings

As I’ve come to the end of my very interesting and enjoyable stint in Community Reuse Network (CRNI), providing maternity leave cover for the National Coordinator, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been happening in the green economy in the last few months.

There have been some very positive developments, both in Ireland and abroad.

The Forum on Food Waste was hosted by the Stop Food Waste team in the EPA, which highlighted the great work being done by Foodcloud, CrossCare and other food banks, to ensure that food, which might otherwise be wasted, gets used and by those people who most need it.

I particularly welcome the Conscious Cup Campaign, tackling one of my bugbears, disposable coffee-cups. My own reusable cup got plenty of (re)use as I trotted down North Great George’s Street three times a week to get my morning caffeine hit. It’s worrying though that in the nine months I did that, there wasn’t another single customer in the café with a similar cup.

Charity shop jacket costing €40

For myself, I’ve discovered the joys of charity shop shopping. Not being a shopper at all, I dreaded the thoughts of going into any shop and having to look through racks of clothes. But actually, they’re generally well laid out with specific types of clothes / sizes / colours grouped together which makes it easy and quick to look through the available items. Can’t do much better than a Versace jacket for €40!

Consultations kept me busy too, and I made submissions on microbeads, the Dept of Transport National Adaptation Plan and the RHI. While these take some time and effort to put together, I take the view that they are always worthwhile; it’s difficult to complain about something after the event, if you haven’t voiced your opinion when asked!

And let’s not forget the ambitious renewable energy and recycled materials announcements made by several corporate behemoths since the start of the year.

As always though, there is more work to be done; it’ll be interesting to see whether the decision, to withdraw the US from the Paris Accord, will have a positive or negative effect. To date, this unilateral action appears to have galvanised swathes of countries, cities and even US states to plough on ahead with initiatives to tackle climate change.

As for me, I’m looking forward to undertaking more research projects – as usual, a lot done but a lot more to do to keep working towards a low-carbon, green economy.


That cup of coffee you’re drinking – is it costing the earth?

It doesn’t seem that long ago since trying to find a decent cappuccino in Dublin was a chore. Now, the proliferation of cafes and coffee stalls means that you’re never more than an arm’s length away from a large/tall/grande double skinny latte (remember when you used to just ask for a coffee!).

While this is good news for coffee sellers, it’s bad news for the environment as that takeaway coffee cup you’ve just used is probably not compostable (they do exist but I know of only one café in Dublin using them), and is very difficult or impossible to recycle (due to the lining of polyethylene which is required to keep the liquid inside hot and to stop it from leaking). It’s most likely that the cup will end up going to landfill where it’ll take several hundred years to break down.

coffee short-1-2If you’re a regular takeaway coffee (or tea for that matter) drinker, why not invest in a re-useable coffee cup? There are any number of styles to choose from (mine is pictured above). Buying one not only reduces the number of these cups being used and disposed of but also, and you can take my word for it, the coffee tastes infinitely better.

The stats:

I couldn’t find any statistics on the number of takeaway coffee/tea cups that that end up in landfill in Ireland every year, so I decided to do my own back-of-the-envelope calculations:

Let’s say one coffee stall sells 200 cups of coffee/tea each day = 200

Coffee stall operates 5 days per week = 200 x 5 = 1,000 cups

Coffee stall operates 48 weeks per year = 1,000 x 48 = 48,000 cups

Now let’s assume that there 20 such coffee stalls operating in Dublin, 10 each in Galway, Cork and Limerick = 50 x 48,000 = **2,400,000** cups annually.

That’s a lot of cups, many or most of which may be going to landfill. I haven’t even looked at the number of takeaway cups used by cafés, of which there are hundreds around the country – if you include these that 2.4m figure would probably increase a number of times. Makes you think doesn’t it; if everyone bought a re-useable cup, how much could that figure be reduced by?

Interestingly, after I had my blog drafted, a prescient article appeared in the Guardian newspaper. Based on its findings I reckon my own estimates above for Ireland are probably way too (unfortunately) conservative…