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.
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.
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.
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.
Interview on South East radio’s Morning Mix
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.
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.