Sunday 20 October 2019

Pól Ó Conghaile: The Irish businesses taking small steps to solve a big problem

No change is too small in the war on single-use plastics, says our travel editor

Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten
Norwegian cruise line Hurtigruten
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Hurtigruten has sounded a note of hope.

The Norwegian cruise line (pictured), famous for its fjord voyages, is to remove all unnecessary plastics from its ships by July 2.

That's right, July 2 of this year.

I've praised Ryanair for promising to phase out single-use plastics by 2023, but this ups the ante. Everything from plastic straws to bags and coffee lids will be removed from its 14 ships within weeks, Hurtigruten says.

It's a brilliantly urgent move. Less than 30pc of plastics are recycled, according to the European Commission - and we've all seen the impact on our travels, from rubbish-strewn railways in India to plastic bottles spoiling Irish walks.

Plastic debris kills over 100,000 marine mammals a year, UNESCO says, and microplastics are leaching into the human food chain.

"There is a lot of talk about the impact plastic has on our oceans," says Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam. "But it's time to take action."

Like Ireland's smoking ban, or the compulsory wearing of seatbelts in cars, targeting single-use plastics is a no-brainer.

While there's an onus on individuals to make lifestyle changes, however, don't forget that we have a collective power over business too.

When companies lead by example, we can reward them with our custom and social shout-outs. When they delay (I'm looking at you, hotel toiletries) we can shame them or stay away.

With this in mind, I tweeted this week looking for Irish hotels, restaurants and tourism outfits making efforts to reduce single-use plastics.

Here are just a few that got in touch.

In Kilkee, Co Clare, I learned that 22 businesses are working with Down2Earth Materials to introduce compostible food packaging.

In Dublin, 'Glasthule & Sandycove Going Green' is a group of businesses banding together to reduce plastic use.

Elsewhere, the Restaurants Association of Ireland is urging its 2,500 members to ban plastic straws (which take up to 200 years to break down).

And have you heard of Refill Ireland, a voluntary scheme for businesses who offer free, 'no-quibble' refills of reusable water bottles? Its 'Tap Map' is on

In Strandhill, Co Sligo, Shells Café got in touch to say it has axed plastic straws and provides free, reusable Keep Cups and water bottles to all staff.

"A lot of our new lifestyle choices have caused so much damage to the environment in such little time," owner Jane Lamberth told me.

"It's our job now to re-educate and ask for more from ourselves and our staff and our customers."

Those are just a sample (tweet me at @poloconghaile and I'll share your endeavours), but bit by bit, the efforts add up. Bit by bit, the voices are being heard.

Just ask Hurtigruten.

Read more:

Why Ryanair deserves praise for its latest PR move

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