‘Cash-for-Cans' Suspension: an attack on Civic Volunteerism & Environment!
Yesterday I took two bags of beverage cans to Galway City Council's recycling depot. As I normally do, I had separated their contents out from the contents of five full bags of mixed rubbish (see photo) that our volunteer group had collected last weekend in Terryland Forest Park.
But when I arrived at the depot, I was shocked to see a big notice on display stating that the ‘cash-for-cans’ scheme was suspended until further notice. I asked the three staff members on duty why was this the case and when would the suspension be lifted. They told me that they did not know and stated that an official from City Hall had come to the depot to put up the notice and did not give any explanation on why this course of action was undertaken.
As a community representative (Galway City Community Forum) I had originally proposed such a scheme in 2008 and had lobbied the government to implement it nationwide. In spite of years of making submissions and holding meetings with the Minister of the Environment and his staff, we failed sadly to get government to adopt such a policy. We then decided to concentrate on getting it introduced locally. Thanks to proactive Galway councillors, particularly Catherine Connolly (who was fantastic), and the support of local council officials, a cash-for-cans scheme was adopted by Galway City Council in summer 2011. As a result, Galway became the first local authority in the country to do so (and today it is probably the only one operating such a municipal service). But such a pro-recycling service is nothing new to this country. As a child, I grew up in an Ireland where pubs and other commercial outlets gave money for each individual beverage container returned. The latter were primarily glass bottles and were cleaned and reused by Irish-based bottling companies. I used the money that I collected from returning bottles to buy comics and toys!
Though City Hall never really developed the scheme after 2011 and subsequently reduced the money given for each bag of cans (from €3 to €2) as well as curtailing the amount of bags that each person could bring(max of 3), nevertheless it was/is a very positive pro-environmental service that incentivised people to collect rubbish from public parks, woodlands and shorelines.
The scheme was also an outstanding example of City Hall listening to the community sector and working together for the greater benefit of society.
Now when large scale voluntary cleanups are becoming more frequent thanks to the great efforts of voluntary groups such as Clean Coast Ireland, Galway Atlantaquaria, Serve the City Galway, Friends of Merlin Woods, Terryland Forest Park Alliance, Conservation Volunteers and resident associations, as well as civic-minded individuals such as Sharon Shannon, this action by Galway City Council sends out the wrong message.
On so many levels this council sadly (in spite of the great work of some very good councilors) is undermining the quality of our natural environment and devaluing the activities undertaken by volunteers week-in, week-out. So it is now time once again for concerned citizens to take action to get council to change policy that is damaging our quality of life, harming biodiversity and is the antithesis of sustainability.
Hence there will be a protest once again outside City Hall at the next meeting of Galway City Council on April 8th over the failure to appoint park warders and related issues. Details to follow tomorrow.