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.

 

 

 

 

 

ESB to introduce a new greener ‘time of use’ tariff scheme

The ESB are expected to introduce a new ‘time of use’ tariff scheme within the next two years. Householders will be encouraged to use power at non-peak times to ease pressure on the national electricity grid.

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The utility said “It will be part of a smart metering programme and residential customers can expect to see it in 2018 or 2019.”  The idea is to encourage people to use less energy and greener energy and flex demand so as to be easiest on the system.

It is not known whether the move will mean more expensive power at certain times of the day – it may simply mean cheaper energy during the night. Company trials have found that when people knew there were cheaper tariff periods, they saved 4pc to 5pc on their bills.

Charging Point

It was also announced that ESB would finally begin requiring payment for eCar charging points around the country. Earlier this year, the utility postponed seeking €17 per month for usage of the almost 1,000 charging points nationwide. The utility are now communicating with eCar customers about the imminent introduction of charges and are currently looking at appropriate tariffs.

The utility said “Ultimately, everything has to be paid for. We need to reinvest and keep the system up to date. We will have to charge

Donside Community Archimedean Screw Hydropower Scheme

The Hydro scheme is located in Donside Village in Tillydrone, on the banks of the River Don. The Village is a relatively new, sustainable community based on the site of an old papermill. The hydro scheme will use the existing mill lade with the addition of a 100kW Archimedes screw. Donside Community Hydro plan to raise the money to build the scheme via a community share offer. Aberdeen Community Energy says Donside Hydro will generate £30,000 every year for community initiatives.

donside

Photo Credit: Highland Eco-Design

The scheme which is at design stage will generate enough electricity to power 122 households.

System Elements

Available head 1.75m
Max. flow rate 10,000 l/s
Screw bladed length 5.61m
100kW Archimedes Screw
Screw weight 20 tonnes

The proposed Donside hydropower scheme

The proposed Donside hydropower scheme

Community Benefits

Aberdeen Community Energy (Ace), a community benefit society set up by members of the Donside Community Association (DCA), will be launching a community share offer over the next few weeks to back the Donside Hydropower scheme.

The proposed hydropoweer scheme will draw water from the River Don to create renewable electricity that will be sold to the national grid. Surplus profits from the initiative will be channelled into a community fund that will be used to achieve social and environmental benefits for local, deprived communities. Ace together with their partners at the DCA have been working towards launching the scheme for the past three years and are finally in a position where they can share the project with the world, and open it up to investment.
The Donside Hydropower scheme will help Scotland on its journey towards 100% renewable electricity by 2020, and it will also create a sustainable community that truly works for its inhabitants and riverside setting. Aberdeen Community Energy are already working closely with members of the Donside and Tillydrone areas to identify priorities for the community fund, with their immediate focus being on improving the riverside for public use. They are also looking at the longer term outcomes, and have set up a social enterprise called Sinergy that will route surplus income into projects that will deliver sustainable benefits for the wider area.

donside3
With construction planned for late May 2016, Ace said potential investors in the scheme could expect an “ethical, low-risk investment opportunity” delivering around a 5% return on their investment. Ace, which has so far raised around £150,000 from loans, grants and investment from Ace directors, is also seeking conversations with businesses or individuals who may be interested in supporting the initiative financially in the short term, as either a lender or investor.
The community share offer will be available for investment from April 2016. A launch event will take place at an Aberdeen city centre location in the weeks after the share offer is live.

National Tree Week ~ 6 – 13 March 2016 ~ ‘We Love Trees’

???ESB Tree Week launched today with a survey of parents that reveals almost a third of children in Ireland (31%) have never climbed a tree and 1 in 10 have never even visited a forest or wooded area. The findings of the survey also reveal that parents claim nearly half (48%) of Irish children spend more time in front of a screen than outdoors. Highlighted in the results was a generational divide, with 74% of parents saying they used to climb trees “often” or “all the time” when they were children, yet they say only 5% of Irish kids climb trees “all the time” today.

Mental Health and Wellbeing:

At a time when mindfulness and meditation are increasing priorities for families across Ireland due to work-life imbalances, stress and financial pressure, trees are proven to have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing. The research backed this up with 82% of the respondents commenting that walking through a forest had a calming effect on them.

National Tree Week – 6th – 13th March

Tree Week runs from March 6th – 13th and aims to reignite the nation’s love of trees through hundreds of events all over Ireland. People are encouraged to visit www.welovetrees.ie to find out about local events happening in their area and to find ways to get outside to learn, grow and enjoy trees.  The event will be launched  in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin at 2pm on Sunday March 6th, 2016. With a wide range of events from tree planting to poetry readings there is something for everyone during Tree Week 2016.  National Tree Week is an annual week long fun festival about trees organised by The Tree Council of Ireland.  In celebration of National Tree Week individuals, families, schools and local communities are encouraged to participate in and support events taking place around the country during the week. Coillte will also supply 15,000 saplings throughout the week long event.

Kilbora Woods, Ferns, Co. Wexford.

Kilbora Woods, Ferns, Co. Wexford.

By doing something as simple as planting a tree, everyone can play their part in making a difference to our efforts to live more sustainably, bringing about huge  benefits, many of which will have long term impact in times of climate uncertainty.

Despite great advances in the past 100 years, Ireland remains one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 11% of our land planted with trees compared to the European average of 40%.  Ireland has agreed a target to increase our forest cover to 17% by 2035.  This initiative will provide new jobs, build our forestry industry and help improve our environment.

On a global level, trees play a significant role in mitigating against climate change by soaking up carbon emissions and in the sustainable wood resource they provide.  Trees also improve air quality, providing us with clean air to breathe, and reduce the effects of flash flooding and soil erosion.  They give shade to make streets and buildings cooler in summer and improve the energy efficiency of buildings by providing shelter and reducing heat loss.  Without trees, life on earth would be intolerable.

Riverdale Water Mill on the shores of Lough Neagh

Riverdale Water Mill on the shores of Lough Neagh

Get involved!

It’s easy to get involved as an individual or as a group.  The Tree Council of Ireland invites you to organise one or more events for the week to celebrate trees. As well as tree planting ceremonies especially those that involve the planting of native Irish trees to help compensate for loss of natural habitat and in turn benefit our birds, bees, pollinators and all wildlife the range of events can include forest and woodland walks, nature trails, workshops, woodturning displays, talks, tree hugging, tree climbing etc. –  the choice is yours!

Rowan trees planted along the approach road by Ferns Tidy Towns

Rowan trees planted along the approach road by Ferns Tidy Towns

What can you do to celebrate National Tree Week?

  • Check out the National Tree Week events programme and take part in an event near you.
  • Celebrate National Tree Week in your school by planting a tree or in the classroom by drawing pictures or making leaf prints or bark rubbings of trees, read or write poems or stories about trees, learn how to measure the height and spread of a tree, produce a class drama about trees.
  • Encourage your local residents association, tidy towns group, youth club, sports club or other local organisation to get their members involved in a tree planting or tree maintenance project (eg. clean-up a local woodland) in your area.
  • Volunteer in a local community tree-planting event. You’ll meet new people and make a difference in your community.
  • Organise a walk or trail to showcase and tell the stores of any large, unusual or historic trees in your community.
  • Commemorate an event of significance in your community by planting a tree and organise a community celebration or get together to mark the occasion.
  • Celebrate the week in a personal way by planting a tree yourself in your own garden.
  • Take some time to read a book about trees or find our more about their characteristics, their uses, folklore etc. Learn to identify trees in your neighbourhood.
  • Enjoy the outdoors. Visit a local forest or park or take a nature walk and enjoy observing and being in the company of trees.
  • Those in the business community could sponsor a community tree project.
Enjoy walking and exploring in the beautiful woodlands

Enjoy walking and exploring in the beautiful woodlands

Even the smallest garden can accommodate a tree!

Just because your garden is small, don’t think that you can’t have trees. One of the advantages of planting trees is that there is a species to fit every location, regardless of size. Many people with small gardens only have space for one tree so choosing the right one is important. When planting in small enclosed spaces, it is advisable to plant trees that have a small crown spread. Eventual height is an important factor too. Even small ornamental trees may, over time, reach a height of 6-7m or more. If you only have room for one tree ideally look for one with more than one feature or season of interest such as coloured bark or fruit or autumn colour following on from flowers.

National Tree Week 2016

Some Native Tree Species to consider for Small Gardens.

Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) – Slow growing evergreen with shredding brown bark and dark green, leathery leaves. Clusters of pinkish white, pitcher-shaped flowers and red strawberry-like fruits are borne together in late autumn and winter. Height 5m.

Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) – Although inconspicuous for much of the year, this small tree is very showy in autumn and early winter when the leaves turn blazing scarlet and masses of rose-red capsules split open to reveal orange seeds. Height 4m.

Silver Birch (Betula pendula) – Distinctive silvery-white, peeling bark that becomes marked with black, rugged cracks as it gets older. In spring, yellow-brown male catkins appear and in late autumn the diamond-shaped, bright green foliage turns yellow before falling. Height 12m. Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ is a weeping form that develops a mushroom-headed habit with branches reaching to the ground.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) – Choose the fastigiate form. Leaves turn deep, fiery red and yellow in autumn. Sprays of white flowers cover the tree in late spring, followed by bunches of red berries in autumn. Height 8m.

Yew (Taxas baccata) – Choose the columnar or fastigiate form. Slow growing coniferous tree forming a dense, compact column. Height 3m.

Recycling saves trees!

School Recycling Saves TreesTrees are essential to our world and offer a wide range of benefits to our environment so for the week that’s in it we should also remember that recycling saves trees! Each ton of recycled paper    can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. This represents a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.

 

What are your plans to celebrate National tree Week 2016?

Hedge cutting season is over – sign the petition to help save Ireland’s nesting birds.

Hedge cutting is illegal in Ireland from 1st of March till 31st of August. Despite attempts by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., to change the laws regulating these dates by introducing the Heritage Bill 2016 earlier this year, it is important to note that the proposed date changes were ultimately NOT made. This is because the bill failed to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas before the recent dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election.

Hedge cutting is illegal from 1March - 31st Aug Photo credit: journal.ie

Hedge cutting is illegal from 1March – 31st Aug                                Photo credit: farmersjournal.ie

Hedgerows are essential for maintaining wildlife diversity, supporting species such as badgers, owls, hedgehogs, stoats, blackbirds and innumerable plants, butterflies and other insects. Not only are they an invaluable resource for much of our wildlife they are vital in providing pollinators, cleaning our air, defining our landscape, storing carbon and by holding back the flow of water off land they can alleviate flooding.

The period within which cutting and burning is prohibited are set down in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended in 2000), which states that:

(a) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.

(b) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection (above).

The existing law provides exemptions for road safety and other circumstances and should be read carefully to ensure compliance.

Section 40 of the Wildlife Act exists to protect nesting birds. Many of our upland bird species are in decline and are in danger of extinction in Ireland; amongst them is the Curlew, which has declined by 80%. Many birds which nest in hedgerows into August including the endangered Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch are also in serious decline.

Nesting season has started

If you see any unlawful hedge cutting, grubbing, burning or destruction please report details to the Gardaí or to the local Conservation Rangers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Reported instances will, as far as practicable, be investigated.   Your local NPWS Office can be found through the NPWS website at http://www.npws.ie/contact-us.

No more slash and burn.

The Irish Wildlife Trust, Birdwatch Ireland, An Taisce and Hedge Laying Association of Ireland created a campaign ‘No to more slash and burn’ to persuade Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D. to reconsider her proposal to change the Wildlife Act to allow for the burning of vegetation in March and hedge cutting in August and establish proper hedgerow and upland management regimes that works for farming, road safety and wildlife.

Join the campaign to persuade the Government to reverse this decision before the Heritage Bill 2016, is passed through the Oireachtas and sign the petition to show your support for the wildlife that do not have a voice. If we do nothing, we risk losing yet more of our natural heritage here in Ireland.

To date over 16,400 have signed the petition.

Nesting bird via Photopin.