Galway is a European Green Leaf city, yet we, along with the rest of the planet, are drowning in plastic. The facts relating to our use of single use plastic and the resulting pollution and health implications such plastics cause are truly shocking.
In only 10 years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Seventy per cent of the plastic we use is only ever used once. Enough single use plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. Last year approximately 500 billion plastic bags were used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute!
In our oceans the problem is especially severe. Soon there will be more plastic by weight in our oceans than there are fish. Plastic breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one litre bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world. In the Atlantic Ocean alone one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic contamination. Forty four per cent of all seabird species, 22 per cent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. Our food and water is becoming highly contaminated.
We are slowly being poisoned.
Did you know that unless it has been burned every piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists? This is true. It takes 500 to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade, so every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form, with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated.
Our oceans, our food and water supply, and ultimately our health, not to mention the future of our planet, are being destroyed by throwaway plastic. This is truly a problem on an epic scale. So what can we do?
As Mayor I have launched a personal initiative to radically decrease our use of single use plastics. It is called ‘Make Galway a Plastic Free City’ and it aims to become the world’s first city to embrace the aim of becoming free from the abomination of single use and throwaway plastic.
Initially I am hoping people will participate in Plastic Free Week, commencing on Monday next, February 5. The aim of plastic free week is to highlight how reliant we have become on single use throwaway plastic.
Try to avoid single use plastic for one week. That plastic water bottle, drinking straw or coffee cup, the shampoo bottle or inessential cellophane wrapper on our fruit and veg can and should be rendered obsolete.
Galway can become a world leader by ensuring that we spearhead the Plastic Free City initiative. Plastic free week will become an annual event promoted by Galway City Council.
I hope a plastic free ethos will in time become a movement that will alter the mindset of our people. This can only be achieved with your help.
We can choose to avoid plastic and insist that our suppliers provide a plastic free option. We can refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics. We can refuse to shop in or eat in establishments that do not provide alternatives to such plastics.
I am bringing forward a motion to council for the second time trying to ban election posters in Galway city. If we allow election posters then every candidate will be obliged to use them, otherwise they will be at a major disadvantage in an election. If we have a blanket ban then it is a level playing field for all. If you want to see this initiative succeed lobby your local councillor to support this motion.
Surely in a 21st century Ireland we should not be judging the calibre of our political candidates by their ability to climb poles and hang posters?
People power works, and people power can and will turn Galway into the first city on the planet that aims to become a plastic free city. We can all make a difference.
If not for ourselves then do it for our children.
Follow me - Facebook: www.facebook.com/MayorPearceFlannery/ Twitter: @PearceFlannery
The ‘Make Galway a Plastic Free City’ Facebook page is live and needs your support.