Out of sight, out of mind: STOP sending our waste to other countries

Jul 15, 2019

Have you ever put an item into the wrong bin? Food in landfill, landfill in recycling…Did your brain tell you for a second this is wrong and you still did it? I know I have, and I am ashamed to admit it but hey, it’s the truth.

I worked in the Hospitality Industry and this is a hard paced, busy, exhausting industry. There have been occasions when, even though I did realise the item was in the wrong bin, my body just did not follow the brain commands: pick it up!! This is wrong!! You might contaminate the entire recycling bin!! I swallow my after guilt by reasoning that I am up the walls, in a hurry, it’s only a small thing.

Have you ever been there? Has it happened to you?

The phrase “Out of sight, out of mind” seems appropriate in this case.

Learning from our mistakes

Everybody makes mistakes, or things they should not do, it is human nature, the trick is to learn from those things that we know we have done wrong. I know I have, and that is why I do what I do. That is why I left my stable job as a Sales & Marketing Manager, in the wonderful Hotel Doolin, and embarked on this mission to help Green the Hospitality Industry around the world. It was not an easy decision! But one that I will never regret, weather I succeed or not. It is not easy let me tell you! 90% of the industry is reluctant to change, I get it, I was too when I first started learning about greening a hotel. But 3 years on I am still at it! And I hope 20 years from now I will be able to say “I made a difference, I helped businesses, and my life’s work has resulted in a greener tourism industry”.

However much or little an individual change their ways, a single person cannot change the waste issue in our country, or in the world. The big changes have to come from our governments, and at policy level.

Recycling Waste

A year ago, I attended a workshop from Voice Ireland, a fantastic organisation that has spent the past few years going around the country, educating people on how to recycle properly. What I learned left me astounded. At the time, while considering myself a pretty green person, I realised there was this new set of rules on recycling, and that I had been putting non recyclable items in my green bin.

I also learned that your recyclables need to be loose, washed and dried. Washed, I understood before the workshop, but dried? That was a new one for me. I could not help but feeling a bit cheated and angry, angry at the waste companies for not ensuring this information was given to every person in the country when paying for their bi-annual bin collection bill.

I realised that the entire contents of my recycling bin had possibly  ended up in landfill for the past 10 years. So my recycling efforts had been an absolute waste of time until I attended this workshop. I am 100% sure that this has been the case in the majority of households in Ireland. So why did nobody speak out sooner?

The worst thing is, there are people still out there that have not been educated on proper recycling, only the other day I spoke to a dear friend that said to me “did you know you cannot put soft plastic in the recycling bin?” She was shocked, and I could not help but think there must be many , many others like her, that through no fault of their own, are still not recycling properly.

“Out of sight, out of mind”

So where should the guilt be placed on this issue? Is it with the individual that just did not know? I don’t think so. Is it with the waste management companies for not informing their customers properly? Possibly. But personally, I feel the guilt should be place in our governments, and our waste management (or lack off) policies.

Up until very recently, 95% of our recycling waste was sent to China, once they refused I believe it is now been sent to Indonesia and other third world countries. How can this be right? If our own country, which is fortunately in the western world, with a richer economy than Indonesia, can not deal properly with the waste we produce, how can we expect poorer countries to manage it properly?

We have all seen those horrendous images of square miles of plastic in our oceans, in the rivers in India and Shri Lanka. Do you seriously think all that waste came from those countries? I am afraid not. It came from our very own homes, and from the homes of most of the countries in Europe and America. It came from the boats that transported our waste to poorer countries, or they were simply missed managed by those same countries we are paying to take our waste.

Where do we start to fix the waste problem?

Recycling is not the solution to Waste management, the only possible solution is waste minimisation, but at policy level.

I firmly believe the first step towards reducing our waste production would be to STOP EXPORTING IT TO OTHER COUNTRIES. Ireland, should take care of it’s own waste, and if we run out of space, and our streets are littered with our own rubbish, then we might really learn to produce less waste, as individuals, in our industries, and creating policies that forbid companies from unnecessary packaging, single use plastics and most of all recyclable items!!

What intelligent person’s mind allows to make something that is not biodegradable, not recyclable, and single use, like the individually wrapped sauces for example? What in the name of Jesus do the manufacturers of these items think that waste is going to end up? And why is our government allowing for these products to still be made in the millions every single year? Ah I know! Out of sight, out of mind.

Another thing we need to do is take waste management again into the state hands, privatisation has obviously not worked, it has got us into a bigger mess. I guess for the government is the same…Out of sight, out of mind.

Last week, my blog was titled “Was recycling the biggest swindle of the past 20 years?” and the more I think about it, the more I think it is true. We allowed to increase production of plastic in our lives because we thought it was going to be recycled, when in reality, our own country was just sending it to another country that did not deal with it properly.

If you are a hospitality business owner, please consider abolishing single use items at your business, consider looking at your waste production and take steps to minimise it to the best of your ability.

This quick checklist will help you start reducing your Food Waste, DOWNLOAD CHECKLIST


Until next week!



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