Article by Daniel Farrell of 2017.

'Plastic pollution is a serious problem in the sea. Now that’s no newsflash to anyone that’s ever visited the coast and had a good wander around – and thanks to the important efforts of active conservation groups like Clean Coasts there’s likely not a single person in all of Ireland unaware of the mess that discarded plastics make. Plastic pollution is a problem and it’s getting out of control. Of course it’s not just a coastal or marine issue, it just happens the visible effects of our plastic waste manifest most obnoxiously there. Plastic that arrives on our beaches stays there for a very long time, degrading them as both an environment and a destination. To stop plastics destroying the environment we need to start tackling it much earlier at a point before its single use as a fork, bag or a sweet wrapper because, plain for all to see on any beach around the country, after that it’s just too late.

Billions of tons of plastic is produced every year and the numbers are difficult to fathom – worldwide a million plastic bags are used every minute, 100 million plastic bottles used every day – and when you consider they’re typically used just once then disposed of the challenge to end plastic pollution becomes oppressively clear and more obviously urgent.

This waste is accumulating in dumps around the world and it’s no great surprise to discover that the sea which has long been our biggest dumping ground is full to its depths with plastic waste. Every piece of plastic that has ever entered the sea is still there bar that quantity removed by the heroic efforts of beach cleaners patrolling the oceans fringes. It’s projected by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. 

Today this plastic kills wildlife, destroys the environment and it’s poisoning us as well. Plastics chemical make-up means it doesn’t breakdown harmlessly like many other products. It’s entering the food chain and has been found in food we eat. A study in America found that 93% of people had plastic molecules in their body.

Stopping the flood of plastic pollution into the sea will require us to virtually eliminate plastic from everyday use but achieving this is going to take a major change in how we live because so much of our modern produce is either made from plastic or covered in the stuff.

Virtually every product we buy from supermarkets comes wrapped in some kind of plastic and it’s mostly thrown out as soon as the shopping is brought home.  Recycling plastic at home is important but it’s not enough. Only 12% of plastic we use is actually recyclable. The reality is the plastic that reaches your home is destined for the dump and to prevent this waste from entering the sea it needs to have never been produced in the first place.

Ending single-use plastics would be a massive step in the right direction but is Ireland ready for plastic-free supermarkets aisles and eventually plastic-free supermarkets?'

The Ireland 'Coastwatch' yearly survey commenced in 1987 and is designed to give an overview of the current state of Irelands coastline. It involves volunteers taking on citizen science and checking their chosen 500m stretch of coast once a year around low tide during the autumn. Observations are recorded on dedicated survey questionnaires while on the shore.  All the data is then pooled to provide a snapshot of the conditions of the areas surveyed at that time (see for maps of the areas). Coastwatch personnel working with Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering then carry out the detailed data analysis.

So are we worried about little or nothing here? Over to the results:

2016: 8649 plastic bottles and 4523 bottle tops recorded over 2389m = 18 bottles per 500 metres.

During the Celtic tiger in 2006, a staggering 53 bottles per 500m of shore were recorded. Further recorded data for other wastes in this years survey showed 4015 cans, 1177 glass bottles and 1079 paper tetra packs.

2017: 8,800 plastic drinks bottles, and as yet unknown number of bottle tops but Coastwatch states 'a noticeable increase in complex caps used with sports drinks' and an increase in the overall number of bottle tops for 2017 over the previous year.

Plastic bottles were found on 82% of the sites, averaging like in 2016 at 18 bottles per 500m of shore. This count is much higher than in EU countries which carry out similar surveys and which have a deposit-return system for empty drinks containers e.g in Germany a consistent 3 bottles per 500m are recorded yearly.

The surveys note that the vast majority of bottles swept up on the shore have their cap on. This may be because people put the cap back on before they get 'lost' or because the closed bottles are more likely to be swept up being more bouyant in water than open bottles which are more likely to sink and stay in the sea. Whats especially disturbing is that most bottle lids/caps are made of a high density plastic (HDPE/PP), high value if brought for recycling, while if they are left drifting in the sea they may appear as brightly coloured morsels to some sea birds, seals and cetaceans evidence of which is gleamed from their autopsy reports to check on the extent of the problem.

In summary, the Coastwatch survey is an invaluable as a way of checking on the health of Irelands coastlines and on consumer habits in relation to one use plastic waste disposal, in particular that of plastic bottles and caps but as with all waste and with only a glimmer of light for an Irish deposit return scheme, why not prevent the waste occuring in the first instance - Stay refilling folks!. 



The Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) took Education Minister Richard Bruton to task on comments that his officials were not aware of any school where pupils did not have access to a drinking water supply.

Rearch undertaken by the IHF amoung primary schools in 2015 found water was unavailable for FREE in 40% of the schools surveyed. 

Meanwhile, some 47pc of schools had vending machines, where sugar-sweetened drinks were more freely available than free drinking water.

The IHF noted that under the national obesity plan 2016-2025, 'A Healthy Weight for Ireland', the Department of Education has responsibility for the provision of 'potable water', otherwise known as drinking water, in all learning centres.

If our health is our wealth and our youngsters are seemingly going to pay for more of us than ever in retirement, should we consider it important enough to put water on the agenda at the next parent-teacher meeting..?



What do you give the city that has everything? Not content to rest on its laurels as a perceived capital of all things classy and cultured, Paris is taking to the streets with one of life’s simpler luxuries: sparkling water. Since 2010, the city has possessed a small network of fountains dispensing fresh sparkling water scattered across the city. Until this month, there were only eight of these fountains, but Paris City Hall has just embarked on an ambitious-sounding scheme that will ultimately provide at least one fountain of sparkling water in every one of Paris’s 20 Arrondissements. Today, a new sparkling water fountain flanking the Canal Saint Martin (at Square Eugene Varlin) emitted its first gush, the first of nine new ones due to be installed by next December. Within a few years, every corner of Paris could be flowing with free fizz. At the outset, the city’s water authorities presented this as a way of nudging Parisians to hydrate more.

“People often told me that they were ready to drink tap water if it was carbonated,” Anne le Strat, head of the Paris water board, told the magazine 20 Minutes when the first fountain was installed in 2010. “Now they they’ve got no excuse not to.”

The luxury of the concept sounds appealing, but what are these fountains actually like? Fantasies about the beautiful, opulent Paris of the imagination have a knack of being punctured by first contact with the real Paris, which like most cities, has its fair share of gray skies, burger bars, and banality. To see if the reality matched to the promise of the idea, I tracked down an operating Fontaine Pétillante, as the French call the fountains.

It wasn’t easy to find. Located very discreetly on the pedestrianized Seine quayside directly beneath the French parliament, the fountain looked almost as if it were designed to troll visiting fantasists with its simple look and battered condition. Tagged with graffiti and streaked with slime, only one of its two buttons actually dispensed any water.

Not a great start, but gulping some down from cupped hands it proved to be…utterly delicious. I am not exaggerating when I say that this fountain’s water was, given the unprepossessing look, a magical surprise. Cool but not icy, it’s extremely fizzy, with a really fine prickle of bubble mousse that was almost like the mouth-scratchingly effervescent Vichy mineral water older French people drink for vague reasons of health. I drink a lot of sparkling water at home and this excellent fountain had me thinking seriously about upgrading to a fancy water from my usual bulk buy of the cheap stuff at $0.55 a gallon. Drinking it on a soft, sunny autumn day, while watching professional dog walkers herd their great clouds of dogs in a canter along the quayside, was one of those welcome reminders that life can be, in fact, quite good.

Paris no doubt has more pressing needs than delivering small but pleasant surprises to visiting journalists. But when something this luxurious can be created by simply and cheaply inserting a CO2 canister into the base of a fountain—and then making it available to everyone—the city’s surely on the right track. Now all City Hall needs to install to make Paris shine is a municipal miniature poodle dispensary.

Article by Feargus O'Sullivan, Citylab.


Borough Market is getting rid of all plastic water bottles over the next six months in a bid to cut down the amount of landfill in the area. This means the sale of water in single-use plastic bottles at the market as well as in cafes and chains in the area will be stopped.

Londons only fully independent market will be introducing free drinking water fountains in order to keep people hydrated. The move is part of the market’s goal to make all other packaging used by its 114 traders over the 51,272 sq ft site near London Bridge biodegradable and compostable.

38.5m plastic bottles are bought in the UK every day, of which just over half are recycled, while 16m are put into landfill, burned or otherwise leaked into the environment and oceans each day. These can then take up to 450 years to break down once they reach the sea. The fountains are a welcome alternative offering free drinking water at all times. Each fountain will have two streams of water to drink from and one to refill reusable water bottles.

Question is where in Ireland will be the first to adopt this..and gain all the kudos?!. 



Are there companies who demonstrate innovative approaches towards our plastic consumption? Fortunately yes there are some. However, straight to the unfortunately it’s not our own large Irish lifestyle or grocery retail stores. Like many sustainable projects Selfridges in London started small:

2011: They launched ‘Project Ocean’ with food events and large colorful store windows. The campaign was based on estimates there will be 1kg of plastic for every 3kg of fish in our oceans by 2021. They ensured only non-endangered fish are served and began producing the fish guide to helps customers navigate away from endangered fish.

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