Household and commercial waste production in Ireland has increased dramatically in the last 20 years.
Landfills all around the country are under severe pressure, while our non-renewable resources are being exhausted at alarming rates. The amount of municipal waste produced has increased steadily over the last decade to approximately 3 million tonnes. By thinking about the impact we are having on the environment and changing our actions accordingly we can play an important part in promoting sustainable development (i.e. "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future"). Reducing the amount of waste we produce by re-using, repairing, composting, recycling and, most importantly, preventing waste in the first place can help to protect both our country and our planet for future generations.
The EU Landfill Directive plans to limit the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill to cut the methane emissions. Wastes such as liquid waste, explosive, corrosive or inflammable waste, clinical waste and waste tyres would be banned from EU landfill sites under the legislation. However, Ireland currently recycles less than any other country in Europe.
To find out more about the EU Landfill Directive click here
Like litter, there are four stages to tackling waste:
1. Analyse the Problem
Before you even start to think about the solution you need to find out more about the problem. Carry out a waste audit to quantify and qualify the waste produced by the school. What (and where) are the biggest sources of waste? Will waste vary at different times of the year? What percentage of your waste goes to landfill? What percentage of waste is recycled? Can you get further information on past weight or volume of waste from previous bills for waste collection? Again, it would be good to talk to the caretaker and/or cleaners as well!
2. Devise an Action Plan
Once you understand the problem you have to think of ways to solve it. Try to involve as many people as possible. From that brainstorming list work out the sensible ideas. Set yourself specific and quantifiable targets. You may want to tackle one type of waste at a time (paper is nearly always the biggest source of waste in any school, and could be a good place to start). It is important to remember the "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" hierarchy here – what types of waste can be reduced/prevented or reused before we look at recycling as a solution? How should ideas be promoted around the school? Are more bins (e.g. for paper/cardboard, for compostable material, and remaining waste) required in the classroom?
3. Measuring Success
You must plan from the beginning how you will measure the success of your waste management. This should include some form of regular monitoring, which will be detailed in your action plan (i.e. how/when/who will carry it out). Make sure to display the details and results of your monitoring – graphs and charts are excellent for visualising changes over time. You cannot manage what you do not measure!
The most difficult thing is keeping the volume of waste down permanently. You will know from your regular monitoring if and when changes in waste volumes (up or down) occur. As time goes on you may need to adjust your action plan to help maintain the success of your waste management.