May 11th 2017, Boiler House, Ballymun Road
Thank you Sarah and your team. I am delighted to be here today to launch the new Rediscovery Centre, Ireland's first 3-Dimensional Textbook. I feel a bit in awe of the towering landscape around me. I congratulate you. What an amazing space.
Every inch has something to teach us – something about the history of the place and its people, something about how we can re-imagine what we already have; how we can and should make use of our limited resources be it water, energy or food, as individuals, as a community and as a nation.
This project is a perfect example of how a building, once consigned to the wrecking ball, can be turned into a beacon for sustainable development. Not only has a new use been found for an old building, but a use that encompasses the very ideals of what the project stands for, RETHINK, REUSE, and REMAKE.
This project was completed as part of the WISER Project (Working with Industrial Spaces to Exemplify Reuse), supported by the EU Life Plus programme, Dublin City Council and by my own Department.
It is inspiring that the community's vision for its own regeneration has led to the remaking of this landmark building here in Ballymun. As the engine-room of a central district heating system, it was ahead of its time, servicing the needs of the old Ballymun community. However that visionary legacy lives on within these walls and now finds expression in this beautiful, clever space. And of course, there is so much more to this place than walls.
This place is home to an industrious and ingenious community of people. From very little, indeed from what others would consider 'waste', the Rediscovery Team is producing fabulous wealth – wealth in social, environmental and economic terms. By training and upskilling local people for the modern economy, the Centre is helping people rediscover not just the value in the materials they are refurbishing and reusing but rediscovering their own value as contributors to our community and economy. This building is now an engine-room for social innovation and change and it is firing on all cylinders.
The average household with a wheelie-bin produces 2.3 kilograms of waste per day. Just over a third (34%) of this material is collected in recycling or organic bins.
So many of the goods we buy today are made for a disposable society. We are victims of planned obsolescence where low quality, low cost goods are produced to be replaced on a regular basis.
This has been recognised at EU level and action is now being taken to ensure the Eco-Design Directive delivers not just energy savings for consumers but also savings in material resources. This is not difficult. If products last longer they can be repaired or reused and their value to our society and economy is increased.
Ireland has become a convert to recycling and waste recovery, meeting the majority of our EU waste recycling, recovery and diversion targets ahead of schedule. There is however much more work to be done to reduce the overall amount of waste we produce. By this time next year, we are likely to have revised waste targets agreed by the EU. It is certain that we will need to up our game in waste prevention, reuse and recycling to meet those targets. And we will be drawing inspiration from you Sarah and your team to inform how we can make those changes.
The redesign of this building exemplifies the importance of the role of creative and innovative thinking in achieving a circular economy. More careful consideration of our use of natural resources is paramount.
The Rediscovery Centre is a shining example of how we need to rethink about what we throw away, and view it as a resource to be reused, re-made and re-imagined.
Specifically on food waste, an average family literally throws away more than €700 worth of food every year. I recently launched a Food Waste Charter and established a Retail Action Group to tackle the problem.
The issue of illegal dumping is also something that I am targeting. I consider fly-tipping to be economic and environmental treason.
I have allocated significant funding to tackle this across the country including through the use of drone technology and I will be announcing further allocations shortly due to the demand from local authorities.
Finally I am delighted to launch 2 new reports here today that will be hugely helpful to develop the re-use sector. These reports were carried out as part of the EPA Research Programme funded by my department.
The first of these research projects is the Reuse Protocol project. It is a practical guide for those working in the reuse sector and those looking to get involved.
The reuse community contributed to the research by sharing their experience and expertise through surveys, interviews and workshops. The protocols cover food, furniture, textiles and bicycle reuse. (e.g. IKEA)
The second research project was a Review of Waste/Resource Exchange Systems again in order to provide a Good Practice Guide.
Waste or resource exchange involves the exchanging of resources such as surplus raw materials, finished stock, packaging, waste and unwanted items between businesses and householders to save money, reduce waste going to landfill and develop new opportunities.
These exchange platforms can be free or commercial such as FreeTrade.ie and Done Deal. We also have our National Resource exchange platform SMILE a free connect service for businesses where unwanted materials from one business can become a valuable resource for another.
As part of the Circular Economy it is important for this free flow of activity to become more mainstream and the guides launched today offers advice for those considering setting up a resource exchange and to those currently involved. It addresses how to get started, the barriers and opportunities and the critical elements for success.
We must work together and continually strive to improve our communities and our environment and not accept a throwaway culture.
We must alter the belief that it is acceptable to litter our beautiful country and the belief that throwing resources away is good. Older generations understood the values of reuse and repurposing goods, summarised in the old saying "one person's junk is another's' treasure".
We have to change our attitudes and behaviour to teach our children that the environment is a precious commodity.
Our efforts to combat climate change, conserve energy, reduce industrial emissions, improve air quality and manage our natural resources properly will determine how the next generation look back at us.
We are living in a time of change I am determined to drive this change as environment minister. What you have achieved here at the Rediscovery Centre is a shining example of vision, hard work and persistence.
You are leaders and you are having a direct effect on changing attitudes and behaviour.
I wish you continued success in your efforts to showcase what is possible and thank you for inviting me here today.