Community Resources Network Ireland (CRNI) is the all-island representative body for community-based reuse, recycling and waste prevention organisations. VOICE is a member-based Irish environmental charity that empowers individuals and local communities to take positive action to conserve our natural resources. CRNI and VOICE have developed these tips for circular economy continuity during this time of uncertainty.
All of us are coming to terms with the new reality of social distancing and getting to grips with how best to avoid contamination of ourselves and those around us. While we need to be vigilant about COVID-19 (coronavirus), we also need to find a way to continue with our long-term collective goals of balancing community, safety and a healthy environment.
We have made great progress in the past two years on the circular economy and climate awareness. Individuals are changing their consumption habits through increased reuse and reduced single-use plastic use, businesses are building sustainability plans, the Irish Government is implementing the Climate Action Plan and developing the Circular Economy Package and the EU is prioritising the Green New Deal.
“This time at home is an opportunity to take stock of how we manage our own resources — from electronics to clothing and food waste — and make small changes in our habits that can have a long-term impact. For example, knowing when to avoid unnecessary purchases, repairing things you would have thrown out or getting the most from your food can all help reduce demand for new goods and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Claire Downey Executive of Community Resources Network (CRNI).
“Daily, we are seeing reports of the petrochemical industry sowing fear into the minds of policy makers and consumers, lobbying for the delay or elimination of plastic bag bans in the US and the delay in the bag charge in the UK. While we understand the fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus and the uncertainty associated with how it spreads and how it lasts on different surfaces, we are concerned that the single-use packaging industry is using this opportunity to promote use of their products, thus setting back the reuse industry and reuse targets set out in the Single Use Plastic Directive and the EU Green New Deal’s Circular Economy Action Plan,” stated Mindy O’Brien, Coordinator of Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment (VOICE).
Together, we can continue to do our part to contribute to the health of the environment even during this time of uncertainty.
Understand the facts about reuse and COVID-19
Plastic wrapped does not mean disinfected
New or packaged items aren’t necessarily more sanitary than properly disinfected reusable or secondhand items. Just because something is wrapped in plastic does not mean the product is sterile nor that the packaging is clean since all goods are passed through many hands. Tests have found that COVID-19 survives up to a day on cardboard and up to three days on stainless steel and plastic.
Read research and articles, including those on CRNI’s COVID-19 webpage (crni.ie/reuse-recycling-covid-19/), and continue to follow public health advice to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
What can you do while Safe at Home?
Declutter to donate
Set aside preloved items after decluttering in the attic, shed, or corner of a room to donate to social enterprises, charities/nonprofits, and voluntary organisations when they reopen. These organisations have been severely impacted due to COVID-19 closures and they will need the support of donations to jump-start their operations once reopened.
Continue your personal sustainability journeys
Avoid single use plastic usage where possible. For example, when ordering takeaway be sure to say no to throwaways — such as cutlery, napkins, straws and sachets (salt, sauce, sugar). Be sure to continue to bring your own reusable bags when shopping. Learn how to get the most from your food to reduce food waste. See voiceireland.org/news/.
Think before buying new and reuse and repair instead to reduce consumption of material goods and single-use plastics. Learn new reuse and repair skills online during this time from CRNI Members. See crni.ie/reuse-recycling-covid-19/.
Continue to support waste reduction and the circular economy
Support Government action on reuse, the circular economy and single-use plastic reduction. This includes the introduction of new packaging levies and economic incentives to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging, green and social public procurement, greater development of the reuse market — which creates jobs in Ireland and shortens the supply chain — and incentives for new businesses, social enterprises, charities/non-profits and voluntary organisations that offer reuse and repair. CRNI’s key policy areas (crni.ie/key-policy-areas/), VOICE’s policy work (voiceireland.org/submissions.php) and VOICE’s recent letter to Minister Bruton outline key policy areas to continue progress.
As a country — in our organisations, our communities, our families — we are demonstrating strength and resilience in taking on this COVID-19 crisis by being Safe at Home. After this, we can come together and continue to create a more sustainable environment — our collective home — to keep it safe for generations to come.