Litter & Waste is the first theme schools participating in Green-Schools work on.

What is litter?

Litter is waste in the wrong place and is always caused by humans.

Litter ruins the appearance of our beautiful towns and countryside. Litter has many forms and many sources, from a sweet wrapper thrown on the street to a dumped bag of rubbish or a fly-tipped load of demolition rubble. Local Authorities spend millions every year cleaning the streets of Ireland and trying to prevent people from dumping their waste illegally. We feel, the money and effort spent on this could be spent on better things!

Litter such as broken bottles and cans left lying around public areas can easily result in an injury, while food litter can attract rats and flies, which spread disease. Litter can also be lethal to wildlife, from discarded fishing lines that can maim and kill water birds, to plastic bags mistaken for food and ingested by animals such as cows, sheep, horses and some marine animals.

Most schools have a litter problem to some degree. The first challenge on the way to becoming a Green-School is to prevent and reduce the amount of litter in the school grounds and raise awareness about the problems associated with litter.

What is Waste?

Waste is an unwanted or unsalable substance or material.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ireland, since 2007, municipal waste has declined, by 24 per cent per capita, despite an increase in population. Nevertheless, per capita waste generation is still considered to be at an unsustainably high level in Ireland. Municipal waste includes household and commercial waste.

In the past, Ireland sent almost all waste to landfill. However, over the last ten years, Ireland has moved towards a more sophisticated infrastructure of waste recovery and recycling activities.

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. Reducing the amount of waste we produce by re-using, repairing, composting, recycling and, most importantly, preventing waste in the first place, we can help to protect both our country and our planet for future generations.

Targets are set at European level and various Directives are in place, such as the Landfill Directive, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive’s, and the Waste Framework Directive. The Waste Framework Directive sets a target for 50% of municipal waste to be recycled by 2020 in countries throughout European Union (EU).

In 2004, a National Waste Prevention Programme was launched in Ireland, led by the EPA and in 2012 “A Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy in Ireland” was launched with the aim of moving Ireland away from landfill and towards more waste reduction and recovery. Ireland is well on its way to meeting both the national targets and the EU recovery/recycling obligations but much more still needs to be done. We can all play our part in helping to meet these targets.

You can find lots of information about waste in Ireland on the EPA website.

What You Can Do

The first thing you can do to reduce litter and waste is to take responsibility for your actions. The effects of litter and waste can be reduced if we work together, create imaginative solutions and spread the word. The following are just a few ideas to get you started and to help you and your school reduce your effect on the environment.

Prevention

  • Ask whether you really NEED the product before you buy
  • Say NO to plastic bags, use reusable bags instead
  • Buy products that have less packaging and highlight the issue to suppliers

Reduce

  • Use a lunchbox instead of cling film or tin foil and reusable drinks bottles
  • Make sure you use the double sided facility on the photocopier
  • Use waste paper for art or as scrap paper

Reuse

  • Re-use old bottles, jars and containers for storage or for use in art class
  • Bring re-usable bags when you go shopping
  • Swap clothes, books, video games and music with friends instead of throwing them away

Recycle

  • Know what you can/cannot recycle (waste collection companies may vary)
  • Hazardous materials (oil, paint or batteries) should all be recycled
  • Aim to buy products that are recycled

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