Galway City Council recently invited Dr Peter Heffernan, Marine Institute CEO to take up the challenge of living 'plastic free' for the week as an Ambassador for it Plastic Free Week (5th – 11th February) in Galway City.
"As an Ambassador for Plastic Free Week, I was delighted to be involved to help promote the avoidance of single-use plastics and replace plastics with alternatives as much as possible. Over 200 staff at the Marine Institute joined me in this initiative in Galway to reduce, reuse and replace plastic items where possible at work and at home, which included using glass drink bottles, reusable coffee cups, trying glass food storage containers for the fridge and freezer, as well as using plastic alternatives such as re-usable pens and pencils".
The Plastics Free Galway campaign has been a positive instigator for raising awareness, sharing ideas and engaging with local communities to help make changes in daily behaviour using plastics. "It's important to highlight that up to a truck load of plastic waste finds its way into the ocean every minute of every day. This creates a huge risk, as it's estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic by weight than fish in the ocean unless behaviours change," explained Dr Heffernan.
As a consequence of the Plastics Free Galway campaign, the Marine Institute's social media campaign shared ideas of how to use less plastic locally and globally. "We highlighted evidence of plastic pollution as deep as 3km at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean in waters west of Ireland that was taken during a recent deep water surveys using the remotely operated vehicle ROV Holland I. It is frightening to think that if plastic isn't disposed of properly, it can very easily end up in the ocean, damaging marine habitats and killing marine animals".
Beyond the Plastics Free Campaign, the Marine Institute is supporting Ireland's commitment to introduce national legislation by the end of 2018 that will prohibit the sale of manufacture of certain products containing microbeads. This includes funding and partnerships both nationally and internationally studying the effects of plastics in the ocean.
Locally the Marine Institute has been very active in making small changes that can result in big impacts with plastic reduction at work going forward, so as to ensure the Plastics Free campaign continues. "Staff members have provided new ideas of how we can implement changes from using non-plastic cleaning products in our labs to finding alternatives to plastic milk containers in our restaurant and coffee stations. Such small steps and using our voice can create a wave of change, which is needed if we want to help protect our marine environment," Dr Heffernan further said.