Irish start-up, CUSP (Cease Using Single-Use Plastic ), founded by Athlone native, Simon Ruddy, has developed a novel approach to tackling household single-use plastic packaging waste.
Based upon the results of a recent study by Newcastle University in New South Wales Australia which noted that individuals are each ingesting up to 2,000 microplastic particles each week, or 5grams, which is equivalent to eating your credit card weekly, Simon asserted the need for consumers to approach single-use plastic packaging waste in the same way a person would approach going on a diet.
“The impacts of single-use plastic pollution have now moved far beyond those destressing images with which we have now become accustomed, sea mammals or birds dying or dead, having become entangled-in or accidentally ingesting items of discarded single-use plastic packaging or tropical beaches strewn with plastic packaging waste.
“Microplastic particles are now entering the human food chain at an alarming rate with scientist increasingly concerned about the long-term impacts for human health.
“The trillions upon trillions of microplastic particles building-up in our oceans over the past three to four decades are absorbing increasing amounts of sunlight, heating-up the surface layers of our oceans, which is significantly altering the scale and patterns of precipitation, resulting in increasingly ferocious weather events, tropical storms, cyclones and tornadoes, wreaking havoc on coastal communities in some of the world’s poorest regions,” Simon remarked.
It is in this context that Simon referenced the comparison with single use plastic packaging waste reduction and starting a diet plan.
“You need three numbers to start a diet, what weight am I currently, hat weight do I want to get to and in what timeframe do I want to achieve this, six weeks or four months for example. It would be very difficult plan a diet without these three numbers
“With 171kgs as our starting point, which is the current annual average per household in Ireland, CUSP is asking Irish households to target just 1kg reductions monthly.
‘To put this in perspective, 171kgs of single-use plastic packaging is equivalent to approximately 3,000 empty 2ltr single-use plastic drinks bottles, while 1kg is equivalent to just 18 of those same bottles.
It is not unreasonable therefore I believe for households to consider reducing by just 1kg monthly,” Simon continued.
A 1kg reduction monthly (12kg annually ) per household will collectively bring Ireland into line with reduction targets required to bring us to a safer, more sustainable and manageable level of single-use plastic waste and also ensure the nation achieves its 2030 reduction target of 50kgs per household, in line with UN Sustainability Goals and Ireland’s Climate Action Plan targets for 2030.
Participants simply download the free CUSP app to identify their initial 1kg reduction, then, repeat that same 1kg reduction each month for 12 months (12kgs annually ). In year two, participants identify a further 1kg reduction and repeat again for 12 months, and so on, each year through 2030.
Weights for 22 of the more common items of single-use plastic packaging found in Irish homes are preloaded to the app. Participants simply tap-in their estimated number-of-units on day one then, after 30 days and following CUSP ‘hints and tips’ for reducing, participants tap-in their new reduced volume to see if they have hit that important 1kg reduction target.
“While developing the app in 2019 I tested it in my own home. We found our initial 1kg reduction by simply eliminating plastic egg cartons and plastic orange juice bottles and repeated those reductions for the remainder of the year until the habit was broken! Those items are now gone from our home and we are now targeting plastic butter/spread tubs and plastic ready-to-eat salad containers.
“Nobody needs to do anything dramatic here, just small bite-size reductions over time and we can hopefully start to reverse the damage being done by the millions of tonnes of plastic packaging waste generated every year, which is leaching into the soil, water supply and ultimately into the human food chain.
“During our recent pilot launch, 200 participating households in the Connaught region achieved average monthly reductions of 2.5kgs, over twice the target reductions required. If replicated nationally this would see Ireland hit 2030 reduction targets as early as October 2025,” Simon concluded