Speech for Minister Denis Naughten, T.D. Launch of 'Reuse Month'.
Monday 5th September
I am delighted to launch the first ever 'Reuse Month'. The idea behind designating October as 'Reuse Month', is to promote the ethos in our communities of "pass it on, repair, refurbish, repurpose, maintain and lend". Adopting these Reuse behaviours can help all of us cut down on waste. There is an ambitious programme of events planned for the month and I hope the initiative will win the hearts and minds of the Irish people.
It is a huge conundrum of our times that deprivation exists alongside wasteful practices in society and what we do about it. Older generations laid much store by the adage 'Waste Not, Want Not'. They understood the seasonal and cyclical nature of abundance and need. In a modern society, where everything is available, all year round and at every price point, new insight is required as to how we can live within the capacity of our planet in terms of the materials we consume and the waste we must manage. It is easy to preach to people that our way of life is unsustainable. It is harder to convince them that it is possible to continue to live well but within the limits of our environment.
Initiatives, such as 'Reuse Month' provide an important opportunity for highlighting how all of us can do something to make a difference. Building on the year-round waste prevention work by the local authorities, the Environmental Protection Agency and organisations like the Community Reuse Network, 'Reuse Month' can shine a light on the good work already being done and the potential that exists for so much more. In the area of food waste alone according to the statistics Ireland is the fifth worst in Europe for food waste. I want to see if we can make it the best country in Europe not just for quality food production but for food efficiency too so I will be announcing an initiative shortly around this issue.
Reuse Month will include upcycling workshops and competitions; events and seminars which I hope raises awareness across the country for the potential of reusing our resources. In my own constituency of Roscommon, the local authority is compiling and promoting a directory of traders who provide repair services in the locality. In many cases, the solution is already to hand but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what is possible.
And there is a lot more to reuse than saving the material value of the item reused. Reusing resources has a positive social and economic value. By reusing items and materials, we support local training and jobs, in repair, refurbishment and retail. We reduce the costs of waste collection and disposal. We reduce the need to import costly virgin materials. This is a good news story for small, local economies and already there are many good stories to tell; stories that need to be told during 'Reuse Month': Successful national platforms such as SMILE, Freetrade Ireland and Foodcloud; Ballymun's Rediscovery Centre; Longford's Revamp3RStore; Cork's Boomerang Recycling; and Kerry's Kingdom Furniture Revamp are all positive Reuse stories. I look forward to hearing more of these stories before the end of 'Reuse Month'.
We must also acknowledge however how precarious the success of the reuse sector may be and how we must continue to foster it. While the energy and creativity of social entrepreneurs can spark new ideas and initiatives, the public purse remains an important supporter of the sector.
My department is providing approximately 2.3 million euro to the EPA this year towards its national waste prevention programme. Given the scope and reach of the programme, it is itself a model of resource efficiency as I would think every Reuse activity in the country has been positively influenced or supported by the programme.
It is important to acknowledge the people and organisations that have made Reuse Month possible. The Regional Waste Management Planning Offices were established only last year so I congratulate you on creating this important public initiative. Those offices are serving as critical links between local government and communities and national waste policy direction. The Community Reuse Network of Ireland is partnering the offices, tapping into its vibrant community of activists to bring the month to life. So well done to you all.
As well as the environmental and consumer benefits of Reuse there are strong economic gains to be made. For example, if it were easier to take phones apart, the cost of recycling mobile phones could be halved. If 95% of mobile phones were collected for recycling, €1 billion could be saved on material costs.
The European Commission has estimated that across the EU there are:
- 580,000 jobs to be created;
- €600 billion to be saved by business; and
- 450 million tonnes per year of carbon to be avoided.
Ireland must be ready to avail of its share and move early to gain advantage.
It has been a pleasure to join you here today to launch Reuse Month. I have no doubt the vibrancy and creativity of the Reuse community can ensure that Reuse Month is a significant success.