You bought something in the shops today
You're gonna go home and you're gonna feel good for a while
But then you'll feel depressed again
Because you're a consumer
And you have no soul
You're a consumer
And you have no soul.
Well, we may enjoy the banter or not of a comedian like Dave McSavage
but there's no doubt that the recent increases in domestic consumption
has put our environment under huge pressure.
We may not be doing too well at football
but there's one European League Table that we're consistently top.
With a whopping 705 kilograms of waste per head per annum
Ireland has the dubious distinction of being the highest producers of waste in Europe.
Per capita, Ireland consumes more per year than any other European country.
Though recycling centres are improving, we need many more of them
and greater emphasis must be put on prevention, reduction, reuse and repair.
Together with civic amenity centres like this
we also have our green household bins
which are sent to recycling centres for sorting.
The ever increasing potential of recyclables is obvious.
Plastic is transformed into a range of products
from toothbrushes to fleece jackets.
Aluminium and tin cans get made into new cans
saving a massive amount of the energy it takes to make them from scratch.
Scrap metal becomes things like buckets and tools
when it's exported to the UK.
This is the quality of clothes being discarded in Ireland today.
Some of it goes to making new materials;
some of it goes straight to the developing world.
Reusable materials can be safely extracted from toxic products like old batteries.
By recycling glass in centres like Rehab in Ballymount
we save huge amounts of energy and CO² compared to making new glass.
On a yearly basis we would handle in the region of 60,000 tonnes of glass.
We send it through a series of machines that sort, screen, crush
and remove all the contamination that would normally be in that glass.
One of the stages that we send the glass through
is through a series of machines known as KSP units
and what they do is we actually utilise lasers
to identify anything in the glass stream that isn't glass.
Ideally what we are trying to catch are pieces of stone,
pieces of ceramic and pieces of metal.
For every tonne of glass that we send to our customers
we're saving them 30 gallons of oil.
So on a yearly basis we're recycling 60,000 tonnes,
that'll give you some idea of the vast amount of energy
that is saved by recycling the product
as opposed to mining it directly from the ground.
Plants such as Rehab in Ballymount are the exception rather than the rule
in a country that lacks some of the most basic recycling industries.
Over the last 10 years we have become increasingly adept at recycling
but 85% of our recyclables go abroad to be processed.
These include paper and card, tin and aluminium, plastics and glass.
Now that we've established a culture of sorting
we need to move on to the next stage:
investing in new enterprises to convert
most of our sorted waste into new products here in Ireland.
Our strategy at the moment is that most of our recyclables are sent abroad,
we have a small recycling industry here we have some facilities.
We have people who make aggregate out of glass bottles;
we have people who make plastic bags out of waste plastic
so we have some recycling industry here.
For some of the larger reprocessing of materials they are sent abroad
and clean, segregated recyclables are actually a valuable commodity
and they are freely traded on the world market.
Long distance shipping of recyclables emits huge amounts of CO²
that could be avoided if these resources were kept here in Ireland
but our economy of scale is too small to compete in this open world market.
We need to incentivise new enterprises that will keep these valuable resources here.
A way to fund this would be by placing an environmental levy
on all disposable products.
Take these heavy weekend newspapers.
We might want the newspaper and maybe the magazine and the sports section
but do we really want the supplements
with their flimsily disguised advertising material that goes with them?
Why should we spend public money
dealing with the mountains of waste newsprint that results?
As little as 5 cent per paper
would pay for the complete recycling of all our newspapers here in Ireland.
Other major recyclables could be treated in the same way,
the levies would be based on the financial incentive needed
to set up and maintain new Irish recycling plants.
This would also prove a welcome boost for the local economy.
The Government have established a market development group
whose job it is to develop markets in Ireland for recyclables
and encourage companies to set up and recycle goods in Ireland.
So there is some work being done on it.
Levies would stimulate indigenous recycling industries
and encourage manufacturers to reduce packaging.
It would also nurture a reuse and repair culture
and help replace the disposable consumerism that is our current obsession.
Buying things you don't need things
We need to buy things
To reassure ourselves that we are alive
But we really don't need the things that we buy
We've just got big empty holes in our inner chakras
Those holes used to be filled with religion
But now we don't believe in God anymore
Consumerism is the new religion.
What did you buy?
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