Touring about west Clare County, the natural beauty is astounding. The air quality is superb. The ocean is pure. The countryside is blooming. If it were any lovelier, I think we would both explode. As is, we are reaching our limit of loveliness. "There is only so much beauty you can handle in two days," my travel partner despairs.
What is the secret behind Ireland staying so fit, in this ghastly day and age? Global warming is pronounced unstoppable. China's air pollution levels are predicted to outdo the US's soon. Deforestation and dead oceans running rampant ... how does Ireland escape global doomsday? To find the answers, we head to the local landfill outside of Ennis.
The facilities manager gives us a quick tour. The landfill has been in operation since 2002. It is filled up in sections. Phase one has been capped, sealed, and kissed goodnight. Phase two is nearly full, and they have begun digging the huge hole for phase three. At these rates, they will need a new landfill by 2022.
We inspect the recycling portion to find some signs of hope. It is drive up recycling for the public, where they can unload household recyclables into huge bins. As of 2000, Ireland recycled 13% of its waste, and the remaining 87% went into landfills. This figure is changing. The strongest incentive now for consumers to recycle is economic. They are charged more for disposal of waste that will go into the landfill, but it is free to recycle other household items.
Cutting down on total waste starts with what you buy. Tourists can help by buying items with less or no packaging. Buy fresh, local items that do not need packaging. Many towns and villages have Saturday farmers' markets. We hit these, and bring own bags when shopping.
You can also reuse items along the way. Be creative. Reuse bags. Use an empty paper bag as a plate. Keep one small water bottle with you, and refill it from a larger source. Tap water is still drinkable in Ireland. Bring what you can from home to eliminate more waste.
Recycle everywhere you travel. Many accommodations offer in-house bins for glass bottles, aluminum, and organic waste. If going by car, look for the public recycling bins in each town; they are most often located in public areas such as parking lots. Plastic recycling bins are rarer, so save your plastic until you find one. Collect all your recyclable items and sort them into the bins. The bins are picked up and brought to the nearest waste management facility where they are handed off to outside recycling contractors, such as Clean Ireland Recycling.
You have choice of how to dispose of your waste wherever you go. Help keep Ireland green by being an eco-conscious traveler.
Written by Liz O' Malley - Summer of Travel 2007