Coffees-to-go are the new plastic bag battleground, in the fight to reduce waste. Fifteen years since the fifteen cent levy was first introduced, we debate the difference that it has made. And we talk to Kenya's Environment Minister, Prof. Judy Wakhungu, about the strict new laws recently enacted there in an effort to combat plastic pollution. It’s Riverdance, but not as we know it! Can gulls really dance? Niall Hatch has more. And we wish ‘twenty thousand welcomes’ to all those winter visitors to Cork Harbour - that’s the number of migratory birds overwintering there right now, and Harper’s Island is a proving to be a bit of a hit; we meet ornithologist Jim Wilson to find out why!
Coffee Cup Levies & Kenya's Plastic Pollution Reduction
Thirty years ago, all it took was a cup of boiling hot water and a friendly neighbour for the magic to happen …
But these days, aren’t we all so much MORE sophisticated! From chocolate-dusted cappuccinos, ristrettos, macchiatos and lattes, to flat whites, sweet mochas, double-shot espressos, steaming americanos and even babyccinos for the little ones! It’s boom time for the coffee-to-go - and they may be pricey, but they’re an everyday luxury, it seems, we can afford. Coffee shops have colonised every high street and shopping centre, deluxe coffee vending machines have sprung up everywhere, and it’s a fact that one in every three of us buys a take away coffee at least once a day.
But it’s not just our wallets feeling the caffeine hit - our environment is too, with two million plastic throwaway coffee cups being sent to landfill every single day. As we’re only too aware, our planet is in the midst of a plastic waste crisis. Not only are there catastrophic results for wildlife, plastic is also entering the human food chain with serious implications for our own health.
So what’s the solution to all of this, and what part can each of us play?
Here in Ireland, the introduction of a 15c levy on throwaway cups is currently being proposed. France has already taken the lead, by passing a law ensuring that all plastic cups, cutlery and plates can be composted and are made of biologically-sourced materials. For more information on this story, click here.
But Ireland does have its own proven green credentials - this isn’t the first time a 15c levy has been introduced to reduce our plastic waste. Terry Flanagan reports...
Well, we’ll certainly be hearing much more about initiatives to reduce plastic waste, but one country which has recently made the headlines for its no nonsense approach is Kenya. It has introduced what could be the world’s toughest law aimed at reducing plastic pollution. Three months ago in Kenya, it became illegal to produce, sell or use plastic bags, and anyone breaking the law risks imprisonment of up to four years or fines of the equivalent of around €40,000, with manufacturers and sellers being targeted first.
Left: Dr. Richard Collins; right: Prof. Judy Wakhungu
Dr. Richard Collins recently spoke with Prof. Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources in Kenya, who is spearheading this recent legislation...
Plastic waste is high on our agenda here on Mooney Goes Wild and after Christmas, on Sunday January 14th 2018, we’ll be bringing you a special programme where Derek witnesses, first hand, the horrifying effects of plastic on wildlife. That’s Sunday, January 14th 2018, here on Mooney Goes Wild.
As a country, we just love to express ourselves through music, song and who can resist a bit of our world-renowned Riverdance...
But it’s not just we humans who get into the groove - wildlife do it too! From Capercailles in Norway, who perform mating moves called lekking, to Birds of Paradise in Papua New Guinea whose black feathers form a cape as part of their dramatic dance.
Niall Hatch of BirdWatch Ireland
But we don’t need to travel to far flung, exotic places to see wildlife working it like Michael Flatley - gulls in your back garden are getting down to it too! Derek met up with BirdWatch Ireland's Development Officer Niall Hatch to find out more...
While we may have been feeling the icy chill of winter here in these past few weeks, for migrant birds which have been fleeing plummeting Arctic temperatures, our shores offer a welcome embrace at this time of year. These winter visitors make a truly arduous journey, flying thousands of kilometres south, instinctively knowing that by coming here they increase their chances of survival, because warmer climes provide a better environment for feeding. Whether they’re waders or wildfowl, these water birds intuitively select the most suitable overwintering spots, and one of their top ten favourite locations in this country is Cork Harbour, where about twenty thousand migratory birds take refuge at this time of year.
Harper’s Island is a small low-lying island in the northern section of the harbour and, because it’s influenced by the tidal estuary, over time it has developed into a salt marsh. Although Harper’s Island is only a small component within the Glounthane Estuary and Slatty Water complex, it’s an extremely important safe feeding and roosting haven for many species and, needless to say, it’s a fantastic place for bird watching. From the Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank to the Golden Plover and Wigeon, the rich diversity of species here is truly incredible.
Top left: exterior of the new hide at Harper's Island Wetland Reserve; bottom right: Paul Moore (BirdWatch Ireland) and Garry Tomlins (Glounthaune Community) surveying the newly installed hide seating and shelving; right: ornithologist Jim Wilson
There’s never been a more exciting time to visit the Island, as a new project has finally reached fruition and will be open to the public just in time for Christmas. It demonstrates how anything’s possible once there’s a vision and everyone gets stuck in and lends their wholehearted support - and in this case, unwavering support came from Cork County Council, BirdWatch Ireland and the whole Glounthane community.
But who exactly did have the vision for Harper’s Island reserve? Well he’s a naturalist, ornithologist, author - and he’s also been a regular contributor to the Mooney Goes Wild Dawn Chorus programme for many years now. It’s none other than our very own Jim Wilson and when Derek visited Cork recently, he took up Jim's offer of a ‘behind the scenes’ tour, and a chance to meet some of the people without whom this project would never have happened...
Hedgerows: It is an offence to 'cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy hedgerows on uncultivated land during the nesting season from 1 March to 31 August, subject to certain exceptions'. For more information, click here.
UPDATE: February 29th 2016 - Press Release From BirdWatch Ireland:
Putting the record straight: Dates for burning and hedge-cutting have NOT changed
BirdWatch Ireland, Ireland’s largest conservation charity, is very concerned about misinformation that is currently circulating regarding the dates within which the burning of vegetation and cutting of hedges is permitted. It would like to remind landowners that all burning and cutting must cease on 29th February this year and that burning and cutting remains prohibited from 1st March to 31st August.
Despite attempts by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D., to change the laws regulating these dates by introducing the Heritage Bill 2016 earlier this year, it is important to note that the proposed date changes were ultimately NOT made. This is because the bill failed to pass through both houses of the Oireachtas before the recent dissolution of the Dáil in advance of the general election.
The laws in place governing the dates for hedge-cutting and upland burning therefore remain unchanged. The period within which cutting and burning is prohibited are set down in Section 40 of the Wildlife Act 1976 (as amended in 2000), which states that:
(a) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy, during the period beginning on the 1st day of March and ending on the 31st day of August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated.
(b) It shall be an offence for a person to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch during the period mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection (above).
The existing law provides exemptions for road safety and other circumstances and should be read carefully to ensure compliance.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act exists to protect nesting birds. Many of our upland bird species are in decline and are in danger of extinction in Ireland; amongst them is the Curlew, which has declined by 80%. Many birds which nest in hedgerows into August are also in serious decline, including the endangered Yellowhammer. The changes to the cutting and burning dates which had been proposed in the now-defunct Heritage Bill 2016 would have caused serious impacts to these birds. A petition launched by BirdWatch Ireland in conjunction with several other national conservation organisations to stop these changes attracted more than 16,200 signatures and rising.
BirdWatch Ireland would also like to advise members of the public that if they see hedges being cut or fires in the uplands on or after 1st March, such activity could be illegal. In such cases, we would encourage people to contact the National Parks and Wildlife Service (www.npws.ie) to report such activity.
BirdWatch Ireland warmly welcomes the demise of the Heritage Bill 2016 and sincerely hopes that any future administration will consider the importance of Ireland’s natural heritage and will not attempt to reintroduce such a flawed and damaging piece of legislation.
To contact your local wildlife ranger, click here for contact details. To read the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000, click here.
Please DO NOT send any live, dead or skeletal remains of any creature whatsoever to Mooney Goes Wild.
If you find an injured animal or bird, please contact the National Parks & Wildlife Service on 1890 20 20 21, or BirdWatch Ireland, on 01 281-9878, or visit www.irishwildlifematters.ie