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SHOP LOCAL AND HELP SAVE THE PLANET!

ALL across the North-West – in Ballina, Castlebar, Sligo, Boyle, Carrick and elsewhere – businesses are pulling out all the stops in these last few remaining shopping days before Christmas to try and make up some of the losses suffered during a bleak year in the retail sector. Yet, most of them are struggling to cope with the “convenience” of online shopping for many consumers.
In the midst of it all there is another major downside to the changing trend in shopping.
According to Repak, our online spending habits this year are set to impact considerably on the amount of waste we’re producing.
During a year that has seen an increase of 25% on what can be termed “click and receive” shopping here in Ireland we’re set to produce almost an extra 3,000 tonnes of packaging waste from online shopping - the equivalent weight of 15 million standard size packages.
The convenience aspect is easy to see. A well-known conservation campaigner put it in a nutshell: “We’ve all gotten the box, within a box, wrapped in plastic, making the search for our purchases like a predictable version of pass the parcel.”
How much of this packaging could have been avoidable? Currently, there is no legislation making suppliers source more sustainable packaging solutions or overseas retailers to fund the sorting of their waste.
According to Repak, the cost to collect and recycle packaging waste of overseas online retailers amounts to almost €1 million each year.
But it’s not just what comes in the post either. The overuse of packaging and Christmas waste is all around us. Our cheap Christmas jumpers are made of plastic fibres, wrapping paper is largely non-recyclable and then there is the packaging wrapped around our food. So maybe we should take cognisance of our approach to packaging waste in all our shopping activity this Christmas.
At 15 million tonnes, Ireland is one of the top plastic waste producers, and the lion’s share of that waste comes from items purchased at our supermarkets. Unnecessary, poor quality and single use plastic encases our food, leaking chemicals and filling up our green bins at home.
Less known, however, is the cost of plastic waste on our health. Microplastic pollution is created by the disintegration of plastic as it breaks down in the earth, during incineration, or simply leaking as it sits on a shelf, affecting every single one of us on the planet. According to a recent WWF report the average person ingests around the size of a credit card worth of plastic every week. While experts don’t know the full extent of the long and short term health issues around plastic ingestion, we do know it is linkedto obesity, cancer, hormone disruption and cardiovascular disease.
In a difficult year like this it is difficult to be prescriptive in advising people how to behave but maybe when doing Christmas our Christmas shopping we could choose loose fruit and veg as much as possible and maybe try to use zero waste stores and local butchers and fishmongers that will let you bring your own containers.