Friday 9th September 2016, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway
Good Afternoon Ladies, Gentlemen and especially to each scholar here at Lawrencetown N.S.
It's a pleasure to be with you today here in your school, in your community celebrating your achievements as part of WEEEPledge. I would like to thank WEEE Ireland for their invitation to join in the celebrations today and a special thanks to Principal O'Donnell and the Board of Management, for letting me come and meet you all.
There are two reasons for my visit here today, the first is to congratulate your school on receiving the WEEEPledge Certificate and maybe see if I can get an invitation to the WEEE educational experience activity that the winners receive but I am also here to launch European Battery Recycling Day.
The link between both those tasks is the importance of recycling batteries. As you will all be aware thanks to the promotion that teacher McEvoy fostered here in Lawrencetown N.S. it is up to each and every member of your school and community to play their part in being responsible for the environment and each little act can make a difference in the community and ultimately for the whole country.
I'm sure that like me you are all fans of the work of Roald Dahl. He may be more famous for chocolate factories and giant peaches, but Roald Dahl also took a keen interest in the natural environment – the changing of the seasons, in particular – and preferred travelling by train rather than by car. I was reading last week an article about the time he visited Kenny's Bookshop up the road in Galway City and a comment he made on what children have to put up with- he said: "Some of the greatest enemies children have are adults. All they hear from them is "Don't! You can't! Be quiet! Go to bed!"
With that in mind, I don't want to fall into the trap of telling you what you must or must not do to protect our environment, especially as you have- through no fault of your own- inherited a planet already badly damaged by the irresponsible and selfish behaviour of the generations of adults that have come before you. However, as unfair as it may be, the truth is that we need you to continue to put into practice the valuable environmental lessons you are being taught here in Lawrencetown and to bring them into your homes and to share them with your parents and community.
Take a minute and think about how many products, appliances and indeed toys that you have at home or here in school that use batteries. Whether it's the remote control for the television (that's if you can find it or get control of it) or your favourite electronic toy each of them use batteries and accumulators as their energy source. These batteries contain substances which are harmful to the environment and it is in all our interest that they are recycled responsibly.
Studies from Europe show each household uses over 100 batteries to power up our devices including, tablets, TV remotes, electronic toys, tools and mobile phones. The use of mobile energy from batteries has increasingly become an essential part of our life but this also means more and more batteries are discarded by consumers.
So if you use those figures as an example and we look to Lawrencetown N.S. there are 57 pupils here coming from 36 families or households already you can see the batteries adding up between your homes. If I do my maths right, your households alone use approximately 3,600 batteries – just think what the whole county of Galway uses and then think again the number of batteries that the whole island of Ireland uses!
When all these batteries reach the end of their life and it's your job to replace the batteries in the TV remote – what's the next step to take – can you remember what you've learnt from WEEEPledge ……it's to recycle your old batteries by putting them into the blue battery box.
Since 2008, consumers have been able to recycle waste batteries by bringing their batteries back to retailers, next time you are in the supermarket see if you can locate the WEEE blue battery box. Also local authorities accept household waste batteries free of charge at civic amenity facilities from members of the public.
Even though the ability and need to recycle batteries is not a new idea, WEEE Ireland developed a new approach when they created WEEEPledge which builds on the concept of free battery recycling and expanded it to a programme designed for schools. Through fun learning activities and taking charge of battery recycling, each student (and their family) learns about the importance of being responsible for the environment and how to make a difference in each community.
WEEEPledge is an environmental educational programme with great benefits. With the WEEEPledge programme not only is the environment being protected but by recycling their batteries each student is helping to raise funds for LauraLynn, Ireland's Children's Hospices. Children in different communities across Ireland are coming together to help other children in need of the services that LauraLynn provides. For every battery box collected it is the equivalent to a €5 donation to LauraLynn Ireland's Children's Hospice.
In 2015, over 5,000 students in 2000 primary and secondary schools signed up to take the WEEEPledge. I am delighted to be here today to recognise that Lawrencetown N.S. took the WEEEPledge and to present the WEEEPledge Certificate to your school and I would encourage each and every one of you to continue with your pledge and to recycle batteries now and into the future.
I am also here today to help WEEE Ireland to launch European Batteries Recycling Day. This is only the second ever European Batteries Recycling Day and it is organised by the European Association of National Collection Schemes for Batteries (Eucobat) and their Irish representative WEEE Ireland.
Although I know the students here are great recyclers of their batteries, not everyone here in Ireland or across Europe have matched your recycling habits. Some statistics point out that unfortunately 2out of 3 people in Ireland are still not in the habit of recycling their small waste batteries and that is something we are hoping to change.
The aim of the day is to ask the people of Ireland to simply look around their homes and office for any small waste batteries that need to be recycled. It is an opportunity to remind people to recycle these everyday waste items.
This awareness campaign is very timely, as Ireland and all other member states in Europe have to reach a European recycling target for batteries and accumulators. Back in 2012 Ireland met the then target which was 25%. Since then we have been exceeding that rate but the collection rate set for each country to reach for 2016 is 45%. More than ever we need to come together to achieve this target. Every battery that we recycle will go towards helping Ireland achieve and maintain that target.
So your homework for tonight is to spread the word, we all need to keep on recycling batteries and encourage our friends and families to do likewise and in so doing remember the words of Roald Dahl- "Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world."