Belturbet is on track to become one of Ireland’s first ‘Zero Waste’ towns, following the official launch of the initiative last week.
Now households and businesses in the area are being urged to get involved and reduce their waste by half over the next five years.
Members of the dynamic Tidy Towns committee, the community, representatives of Cavan County Council and students from local schools were among those gathered in the Townhall Civic Centre for the launch event.
It was also a special evening for sixth class pupil, Brien McDwyer from St Mary’s Boys National School, as he was named the winner of the competition to design a logo for the Zero Waste campaign.
The chairman of Belturbet Tidy Towns Committee, Barry Wilson, explained the background to the initiative and how members of the committee had visited Cashel in County Tipperary where they were endeavouring to become zero waste.
“They ran an 18-month project and we went down to visit them in April of 2018 to see at first hand the things they had done successfully and not so successfully.
“Our evaluation of their efforts revealed that the time scale of 18 months was too short and consequently we settled on a five-year time frame for the Belturbet Zero Waste initiative as being more suitable,” he explained.
“We are the only town in Ireland doing this particular Zero Waste Project. We will be sending out questionnaires in the coming weeks, where we stand presently in terms of waste disposal. We will establish our base line from the results and the score will be set against international standards. We are hoping to achieve a 10 per cent per annum reduction,” said Mr Wilson.
“We are hoping to achieve a 50% reduction over those five years in terms of our waste in Belturbet – that includes waste going to landfill and all other waste including energy, water, clothing and transport etc,” he outlined.
He acknowledged the support from Cavan County Council, Breffni Integrated and Connacht Ulster Waste in their endeavours. The project is also being facilitated by Vincent Carragher, a Research Fellow in Trinity College, who is providing guidance in the background.
“We established our structures in December because we have to do this in a manner by which it can be recognised and validated. With the combined guidance of Vincent Carragher, Cavan County Council and Connacht Ulster Waste, we have established our working groups,” said Mr Wilson.
There are two groups – the household team and the business team.
The household team features Laura Hyland from the Convent of Mercy, Beryl Trenier from the Fairgreen School, Maureen Gaffney from St Mary’s Boys School and Ann Marie Fay and Bridget Sheridan from St Bricin’s.
Jim Lyng, environmental awareness officer, Cavan County Council, said they became involved with the initiative “because this is very much what we are trying to do as a local authority.
“It empowers communities and it is great to see so many young people here tonight. They are the people who buy into this and will shape the future,” said Mr Lyng.
The Council will be providing segregated bins on the Main Street in Belturbet – two initially to see if people will use them. “It will be part of the education process for the people in the area to segregate their waste at street level,” said Mr Lyng.
He added that there are plans to provide two fast charging points for cars in the carpark of the Main Street at the Diamond. “That is part of reducing our carbon footprint and dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.
“I wish the project team well and we look forward to a positive outcome and one which can be replicated in other towns and villages across the county,” said Mr Lyng.
Ann Marie Fay, teacher in St Bricin’s, said they were delighted to be involved in the project. “It is very important that all the schools community are at the coal face of distributing the survey material and that the students are involved in interpreting that data - learning about this as a new lifestyle choice for them and learning skills which they can bring with them as they progress onto college and into their own lives,” she said.
She was joined by Nadine O’Brien, a Transition Year student and Sam Convery, a fifth-year student at St Bricin’s College, who showcased their Junk Kouture creations. Sam's creation – of fashion made from junk – caught the imagination of the judges last to advance to the national finals of the competition.
Sinead Ni Mhainnin from Connacht Ulster Waste congratulated those involved in the initiative and assured them of her support.
“We are facing huge challenges in Ireland at the moment in regards to waste and how we manage it – globally, nationally and regionally. We are not preventing enough waste. We are generating way too much waste. We are not recycling enough. We are sending too much to landfill. In essence, this project will empower people on the ground and all of us to take responsibility for the activities we undertake in our own lives, which collectively have a huge impact,” she said.
Damien Brady, chairman of the Council’s Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) dealing with Planning and Environment, accompanied the Tidy Towns team to Cashel on their fact-finding trip.
He congratulated the businesses people for coming on board and welcomed the introduction of segregated waste bins in the town.
Cllr Brady urged people to embrace the re-usable cup initiative, relaunched by Cavan County Council last year. “We know that there are thousands of them [disposable coffee cups] used every day,” he said.