Every cap counts – the message behind the 6,000 plastic bottle caps

…..and so it began

Early last year Ferns Tidy Towns carried out a survey on the street to see how members of the community were managing to reduce single use plastic waste. They were surprised to discover that there was some confusion around whether or not plastic bottle caps could be recycled. A staggering 60% of those surveyed were putting them in their household waste bin! During litter picks there was also a considerable number of plastic caps discarded along the footpaths and communal areas.

The result of the on street survey accompanied by the statistics on the amount of plastic generated in Ireland made for some alarming reading. With this in mind the committee set about making plans for a project to highlight the effects of single use plastic on the environment. Putting their heads together they came up with a plan to design and make two murals using plastic bottle caps. This would bring attention to the plastic bottle cap dilemma and a novel way to highlight the damaging effects of plastic on the environment.

How much plastic do we generate?

  • Up to 97 per cent of Irish plastic went to China because of our inability to deal with it at home up to 2017, before that market closed.
  • 2.5 million plastic bottles are disposed of in Ireland every day.
  • Ireland is the top producer of plastic waste in Europe; generating an average of 61kgs per person every year – almost double what the UK produces.
  • We produce the equivalent of nearly 2,000 water bottles, or 5,550 disposal coffee cups, per person annually
  • More than 60 per cent of plastic waste still comes from packaging – but only 40 per cent of that packaging is recycled
  • In 2015, Ireland generated 282,148 tonnes of plastic packaging waste.
  • 30 per cent of the EU’s plastic is recycled (the equivalent figure in Ireland is 34 per cent); 39 per cent is incinerated, 31 per cent goes to landfills.
  • We have recycled 8.5 billion plastic bottles since 1997.
Ferns Tidy Towns volunteers checking out the 90kg of sorted plastic bottle caps

The details of the proposed bottle-cap mural project was submitted under the Waste Prevention Grant Scheme run by the Environment Section of Wexford County Council and the Southern Waste Region, Ferns Tidy Towns were successful in securing funding under this scheme. The idea behind the project was to highlight the negative impacts of single use plastics on our environment.

Plastic bottle caps second most littered item after cigarette butts.

  • Bottle caps are often so small that it is easy to overlook the impact they have on the environment. If you drop one on the ground at the park or the beach, you may think it is not important. However, little caps bobbing in the water can look like an easy meal for a wide variety of wildlife, from fish and sea turtles to marine birds. The animals eat the tops, feel full, do not eat real food and die from starvation.
  • Plastic bottle tops are one of the top 10 items found during marine debris beach clean-ups worldwide and are the second most littered item after cigarette butts. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Most rubbish that ends up in the water begins its journey on land.
  • It is estimated that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish. The plastic that finds its way into the oceans inevitably will pose a risk of ingestion by sea birds, fish, marine mammals, etc. It’s not uncommon to see articles of sea life found dead with significant amounts of plastic in their stomach.
  • According to the United Nations, ingestion of plastic kills an estimated 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year.
  • Additionally, more than 90% of all birds and fish are believed to have plastic particles in their stomach. It’s because plastic breaks up into tiny pieces in the sea, which are then consumed by fish and other sea animals.
Sorting the bottle caps and placing them on painted designs before gluing into place

A helping hand from the community

Ferns Tidy Towns wanted a concrete way to show the local community the large impact such a small thing like a bottle cap could have. A call was put out to the community via social media looking for bottle caps of all colours, shapes and sizes. The plan was to get as many members of the community, both adults and children involved with recycling and waste prevention in a very hands on way. By helping to design and make the mural the community would remember not to drop the cap on the street or send them to landfill but to recycle them and better still eventually reduce their plastic waste by refusing single use plastic.

After five months a staggering 90kg of plastic bottle caps were collected. That’s just in our small community. Think of how many tops that is across the country in a year. Now imagine how many it would be worldwide. Now imagine how many that would be in 5 years, in 10… It really is mind blowing.

With a design in mind they asked the local art group, junior members of Ferns Tidy Towns and as many members of the community as possible to join them in making the mural. The plastic bottle caps were sorted into their various colours and sizes. Marine plywood was sourced for the backing board because it was suitable for outdoor use. After priming the two 8×4 sheets (cut into eight 4×2 lengths) with white emulsion the design was painted on using several layers of coloured water based emulsion paint testers and then to give the mural longevity it was finished with three coats of yacht varnish. The bottle caps were then glued into position. When the glue dried they were then painstakingly anchored into place with screws.

All hands on deck from the local community

The message in the bottle caps

The mural was placed at the Community Vegetable garden and home composting demo site . Ferns Tidy Towns use this area to run workshops on reducing waste, composting, growing your own and water conservation.

The educational mural made from plastic bottle caps sends the message to the wider community about the importance of refusing/reducing/recycling plastic to help the environment and prevent plastic waste from damaging our marine life. The ocean theme mural will raise awareness of the harmful effects of plastic bottle caps on marine life and the wildflower/wildlife to raise awareness of the effects of plastic to our environment, wildlife and plants.

Ferns Tidy Towns hope the community will take a step back and look at the cap on their drinks bottle. It starts there. Each one makes a difference. Each one you keep out of the ocean and out of landfill, you keep out of our marine animals and the local environment. Thanks to everyone involved in helping to bring the vision of a ‘Plastic Free Ferns’ to life by creating the bottle cap murals.  

Bringing the vision of a ‘Plastic Free Ferns’ to life by creating the bottle cap murals.  

Interview on South East radio’s Morning Mix

Mary Gethings speaking to Alan Corcoran about the damaging effects of plastic on our environment and thestory behind the plastic bottle cap murals
Workshops on reducing waste, composting, growing your own and water conservation.

Reducing single use drinking water plastic bottles

During the Summer of 2017 Ferns Tidy Towns contacted Refill.ie, a voluntary environmental project leading the way to make Ireland a tap water refilling country once again. Their aim was to prevent plastic waste through reducing the amount of single use drinking water plastic bottles consumed in Ferns of which a very significant portion end up on our streets and eventually finds its way to our waterways and seas.  To date they have an impressive fourteen refill points around the town ranging from businesses offering free tap water refills to public accessible taps registered on the Refill Ireland Tap Map.

Remember to use the right bottle – instead of buying disposable plastic water bottles every time you’re on the move, why not buy a reusable one and fill it up before you leave the house, saving money and the planet?

Following on from this success they worked with Wexford County Council and Gorey Municipal council to replace an old broken tap with a water fountain to enable people to refill on the go. A replica of an old water fountain was installed in the area where the old village pump once stood as it was an important feature in yesteryear. This has been a great success with people filling up on the go with fresh tap water.

Water conservation

Over the years Ferns Tidy Towns have concentrated on projects in the community to help reduce waste especially single use plastic and food waste, conserve water and working towards making Ferns a more sustainable village. In 2016 we won the Irish Water Value Award for the best small town in the South East region of the Supervalu Tidy Towns regional awards. The Value Water Award was about raising awareness of the importance of mindful water consumption within communities and reconnecting communities with water, creating a greater understanding of where water comes from and where waste water goes to. The project in 2016 focused on water conservation. The initiative promoted the use of rainwater harvesting in the community and the benefits of water conservation through education.

Eco Watering System


Water is precious and vital to all life on our planet but there is only a limited amount of it. Most of us don’t think about water. We all have bad habits when using water. These habits mean that we often use more water than we need and therefore waste it, without thinking of the impact. This is damaging to the environment and can have an effect on our utility bills. Water efficiency is about reducing waste and thinking about the water we all use, changing bad habits into good habits. Conserving water not only helps preserve the precious and limited resource, but in turn provides a variety of benefits.

Everyone can save money by saving water. Treating and supplying water requires a lot of energy with its associated carbon emissions of course. Therefore, saving water will reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment. Everyone can do their bit to help protect our environment by not wasting water. Using water wisely within a community will help to achieve an environmentally sensitive place for people to live.

Water butts installed to collect rainwater at Ferns Community Garden
Posters designed by local school children

TT ECO-350 Watering System

Ferns Tidy Towns have been struggling for years to properly water their plants and flowers around the village, especially in warm dry summer weather, with the result that they were not getting full value from their floral displays throughout the flowering months.

We worked alongside Ferns Tidy Towns to design and supply a bespoke, portable watering system to suit their watering needs, reduce water waste and make more efficient use of the rainwater collected in the water butts located at the community vegetable garden and other locations around the village.

The result was the TT ECO-350 watering system, the name inspired by the local Tidy Towns group but equally suitable for other community groups or individuals. The TT ECO-350 watering system gives you great flexibility in its operation and use. It allows you to fill the 350 litre tank from an external source such as a water butt, a rainwater harvesting storage unit or a natural spring for instance. For those with their own water well it can also be filled directly by hose through the filler cap on the tank but we do recommend using grey water whenever possible.

Watering the vegetable garden in the Community Park
Watering flower baskets at Ferns Castle
Pumping water directly to the hose from a natural spring

Operating Modes

There are also several options as to how the system operates. It can pump:

  • directly from the external inlet to the hose outlet without using the tank storage (as shown in the image just above)
  • from the external inlet to the tank (filling the tank)
  • from the tank to the hose outlet (emptying the tank)
  • from the bottom of the tank to the top of the tank (for mixing purposes, handy for ensuring a good mix of liquid fertiliser for instance)
Watering from the TT ECO-350 tank at St. Mogue’s Well

When pumping from the external inlet the supplied suction hose (with filter) is used. The hose used is wire reinforced PVC hose – specifically designed for vacuum/suction.

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Filling the TT ECO-350 tank from a water butt

Design Features

The tank is designed with internal baffles that limit water movement when being transported in a vehicle. The tanks are manufactured from semi-translucent medium-density polyethylene (MDPE) that is ideal for easily checking the water level within the tank. The tank has a spring-vented filler cap.

The pump is an on-demand marine grade pump with capacity to pump up to 15 litres per minute and it is self priming. The pump is powered through the cigarette lighter socket in your vehicle. The external inlet and hose outlet use high quality stainless steel quick-connect couplings with stop valves.

As well as the operating options outlined above the system can also be used to supply water for various applications, such as to a pressure washer for instance.

Supplying grey water to a pressure washer

Multiple Uses

So, the TT ECO-350 watering system has several uses and is ideal for community groups such as Tidy Towns groups and Community Garden groups or individuals who want to conserve water by using it in a more efficient manner and avoid wasting it. Uses of the system include:

  • Watering
  • Wash-down
  • Spraying
  • Water Supply
Using a wash-down lance with fan head
Using a wash-down lance with jet head

Solutions to suit your application

Other tank sizes and bespoke solutions are available and a mobile 110 litre wheeled unit with battery and optional solar panel is in development.

Contact us

Please contact Eco Evolution for further details: info@EcoEvolution.ie

Archimedes Screw to generate green energy in Inverness

The Highland Council is planning to install a Hydro Electric Archimedes Screw at Whin Park Lade. The 100kW turbine will control the water flow from the River Ness through to Whin Park and is estimated to generate 672,529 kWh, which is equivalent to the power for 150 homes. The renewable energy project is estimated to generate an income for the Council of around £90k to £120k at current prices.  The annual operating cost will be in the region of £15k.

Illustration of the proposed Archimedes Screw Hydro-power project

This modern, innovative project provides an excellent opportunity for the council to generate income and renewable energy and make savings As well as producing power equivalent to the power for 150 homes the electricity will also be used to supply council buildings and local venues including the Aquadome and the archive centre, generating further savings. It is anticipated the planning application for the installation of the Torvean Micro Hydro Scheme Archimedes Screw will be submitted in the coming months and will include consultation with relevant statutory consultees.

Site of proposed Archimedes Screw project

Once again we see the Ancient power of Archimedes being used for hydropower generation because if it’s fish-friendly credentials. The Archimedean Screw turbine provides a fish-friendly alternative to conventional turbines, ideally suited to low-head sites, and sites with fish protection issues. Extensive fish passage tests have conclusively demonstrated that the large water chambers and slow rotation of the Archimedean Screw allow fish of all sizes, and debris, safe passage through the turbine. As a result, the Environment Agency has agreed that no screening is required.

If you are the owner of an old mill site or a potential hydro site or are a community group interested in developing a hydro project for community use please contact us here.

The Highland Council contracted AMECFW and senior specialist in Archimedean Screw hydropower systems, Mannpower Consulting Ltd, to develop the project design.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2017 – Carbon Monoxide Can, and Does, Kill

Ireland’s fifth annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week takes place in Ireland from 26 September to 2 October in this year. Each year, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and highlight the measures that can be taken to prevent it. Carbon monoxide can, and does, kill. On average, six people in Ireland die every year as a result of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and many more are made ill. There are a number of things you can put in place to prevent CO poisoning.

 

What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?

Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas and is a common yet preventable cause of death from poisoning worldwide. Approximately half of the deaths from unintentional CO poisonings result from the inhalation of smoke from fires. Other significant causes are vehicle exhausts and deaths in industrial / commercial settings. On average between 1 and 2 people die each year in Ireland from unintentional CO poisoning in the home in incidents related to domestic heating or other fossil fuel installations in the home (i.e. excluding the inhalation of smoke from fires).

The incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal is a common environmental source of CO and is responsible for many cases of non-fatal unintentional CO poisoning.

In normal conditions the combustion process (the addition of oxygen) will result in carbon in the fossil fuel, combining with oxygen, in the air, to produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the same substance we exhale when we breathe.

However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process or the heating appliance is faulty, Carbon Monoxide can be produced.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

Causes of CO Poisoning

You can be in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home if dangerous amounts of Carbon Monoxide accumulate in the home. This can happen as a result of any or a combination of the following:

  • Faulty or damaged heating appliances
  • Heating appliance not maintained or serviced
  • Rooms not properly ventilated
  • Blocked chimneys or flues
  • Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater
  • Poor installation of heating appliances
  • Improper operation of heating appliances
  • Property alterations or home improvements, which reduce ventilation
  • Running engines such as vehicles or lawnmowers in garages
  • Using cooking appliances for heating purposes

Safety Precautions

  • Ensure your appliances are correctly installed and SERVICED ANNUALLY
  • Ensure that rooms in your home containing heating appliances are properly ventilated – NEVER BLOCK VENTS
  • Make sure all chimneys are regularly swept and kept clear
  • Use appliances only for the PURPOSE for which they were designed, e.g. do not use a cooker to heat a room
  • NEVER use any appliance if you suspect it might be faulty
  • If undertaking ALTERATIONS to your home which may affect the safety or efficiency of your heating installation (e.g. adding an extension, converting a garage, removing internal walls, changing a living room into a bedroom, double glazing / weather sealed doors) follow this safety advice:
    • Do not block or build around any existing air vents or flues
    • If creating a new living space, ensure it has ventilation in accordance with Building Regulations
    • If adding additional radiators ensure that your boiler can cope with the additional capacity
    • If you are altering or adding appliances to a natural gas or LPG installation, ensure that work is carried out to IS813:2002 Domestic Gas Installations
    • Get professional advice on ventilation and flueing before embarking on alterations to your house. Contact your fuel supplier for details of qualified personnel
  • Use Carbon Monoxide alarms but remember these are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys. Check that the Carbon Monoxide alarm complies with the EN 50291 standard.

Home Improvements

Many people when carrying out home improvements, such as adding extensions, double-glazing, conservatories etc., or when removing internal walls or partitions are unaware that they may be affecting the safety or efficiency of their heating installation. If you require advice before embarking on major alterations, or if you are going to change the use of a living room into a bedroom, then you may require the advice of a professional. Contact your fuel supplier for a list of qualified personnel.

What can you do?

Help spread the word far and wide for Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. Ensure your family and friends are aware of the dangers of CO and how to prevent it – encourage them to visit here and get informed.

Coveney launches public consultation on a proposal to ban microbeads

The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney T.D., today launched a public consultation process in relation to a proposed legislative ban on certain products containing plastic microbeads. The public consultation process will last 6 weeks, closing on 24 March 2017.

Cosmetics, toothpastes and cleaning agents use plastic particles which can harm the marine environment

The Minister said ‘I am very worried about the level of plastic litter that ends up in our seas and oceans. This includes plastics microbeads found in some cosmetics, body care products, toothpastes, scouring agents and detergents and I am determined to address this issue. It is concerning to think that all plastic material which has ever ended up in the marine environment will reside there for many centuries to come, unless it is somehow removed. I regard microplastic pollution as one of most significant marine environmental challenges of the 21st century’.

While plastic microbeads represent only a fraction of the microplastics in our oceans, it has still been estimated that many billions are being washed into the world’s rivers, lakes and seas each year. Once in our seas and rivers they can last for centuries without breaking down. Due to their shape and size, they can be confused for food by fish and other aquatic creatures and they cannot be removed once they are in the marine environment.

Tiny plastic particles are sold in thousands of personal care products globally. With wastewater treatment plants not designed to filter them out due to their size, they can flow down the drain, into the sea and into the marine food chain. Microbeads are not biodegradable and once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.

Microbeads are just one part of the plastic-pollution problem in our oceans, lakes and rivers

Cosmetics companies have flooded hundreds of products, mostly facial scrubs, shampoo, toothpaste, and lip gloss with microbeads: tiny balls of plastic used to exfoliate our skin. You know, those plastic sand-sized microbeads added in order to give your favorite scrub a good gritty texture. One tube of facial scrub contains more than 300,000 plastic microbeads. Banning microbeads from personal use is pretty easy to do. Just check the label on products for polyethylene or polypropylene, which are the most commonly-used plastics.

Making a personal commitment not to purchase products that contain microbeads is a start and is commendable, but it won’t take the product off the shelves for others to buy. We need comprehensive legislation to ensure that happens.

The Department is inviting any interested parties to make submissions to help inform the legislative process. To get involved, please complete the online microbead survey or email your observations or comments to msfd@housing.gov.ie.

To assist you, relevant documents may be accessed by clicking on the following links. These include a summary document outlining why the consultation is taking place, which includes a questionnaire and OSPAR’s Regional Action Plan for the Prevention and Management of Marine Litter in the North Atlantic.

Terms & Conditions:

All submissions and comments received will be subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2014. Submissions are also subject to Data Protection legislation.

Submissions and comments will not be responded to on an individual basis but will be reviewed as part of the process and will feed into the deliberative process.