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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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.
Please contact Eco Evolution for further details: info@EcoEvolution.ie
National 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Trees 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?