Ireland’s young Eco-Worriers

By Paul Carton

Olan Hodnett of Down2Earth materials and Dylan Regan of VirtueBrush Photo by JR@N4

A green flag was hoisted high up above the RDS on the 22nd of February last to pay tribute to the efforts Ireland’s schools have made in educating a more environmentally-mindful generation. It was the second Green Schools Programme Expo that An Taisce and the National Trust for Ireland, have put on since the programme’s inception 20 years ago.

A selection of schools who have made great strides in this programme were invited to showcase their projects to other schools involved in the endeavour, along with exhibitors and government agencies, to drive home An Tasice’s and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment’s message of a ‘sustainable, low-carbon, climate-resilient future’.

NewsFour caught up with Grainne Ryan, a climate action officer for An Taisce, to see how the pupils are responding to climate change. “The majority of the students are hoping we get our act together and they are a tiny bit doomsday-ish, but there’s a couple that resonate with our climate hope, which is kind of what we are trying to reach. And when asked if we don’t meet the Paris Agreement, they keep talking about severe flooding, Storm Ophelia, status red warnings, they are very on-point and know what they are talking about,” said Grainne.

A startling fact that the public has only been made aware of recently through the ‘Latte Levy’ campaign was that the single-use takeaway coffee cups that we use are not recyclable. The Government aims to tackle this problem by charging a levy on these cups.

In order to avoid the unnecessary charge, the public were encouraged to purchase reusable cups when the levy comes in. However, compostable cups are an alternative, but it will wholly depend on councils implementing brown bins on their streets.

NewsFour spoke with Olan Hodnett from Down2Earth Materials, who are the distributor for a plant oil based receptacle manufactured in Ennis by VegWare, to be used by cafes and restaurants as a eco-friendly substitute to the non-recyclable ones currently in use.

Olan says that they currently supply approximately 450 cafes and restaurants across the country with cups made from Polylactic (PLA) which is a plant-based oil. They are all made from corn starch and are fully certified as compostable. “We’ve had all our products tested, so we know from start to finish that they will compost out. The lid is made from PLA and has the mark on it. It goes into your brown bin, and when that is taken away to a composting facility it’ll break down into nutrient-rich soil in 90 days” said Olan, with Cork city and county council being the first ones to ban single-use cups in the country.

According to Olan, Down2Earth materials are now working with the council to get the brown bins on the streets and educate people on waste management. The closest cafe to Dublin 4 which uses the cups at present is the Grantham Cafe on Aungier Street, but according to Olan there has been huge interest in their product.

When most of our plastic waste is being sent to China, it’s refreshing to hear one ecopreneur, that’s an environmentally motivated entrepreneur, beginning to import a material from China to use here. The material is bamboo, the product is VirtureBrush and its founder Dylan Regan was present at the expo to hand out his toothbrushes to anyone curious to try them out.

Dylan reported they are very popular in places like Australia and Asia and saw a gap in the market here. The product is currently on sale in the Healthstore franchise across Dublin.

Photos, clockwise from top right: Dylan Regan of VirtueBrush, An Taisce’s Grainne Ryan and Gary Tyrell and Olan Hodnett of Down2Earth materials.