I was delighted last month when Derry City and Strabane District Council adopted a Circular Economy/Zero Waste stra tegy.
When Environment Minister, I clearly saw the important environmental improvements and exciting economic opportunities that the move towards a circular economy could create, and worked closely with Zero Waste NW to ensure that the necessary research and report were funded.
The report by Eunomia Research and Consulting Limited identifies massive financial savings - £3m per year- that can be made by council and ratepayers simply by reducing the amount of waste we create and dispose of. There is also real potential in the ‘green economy’ to create new jobs and attract new investment.
While these economic benefits are a great incentive, my main motivation for championing Zero Waste is my desire to see us protect our planet. The devastating impact of waste,particularly plastic, on our environment was recently brought home to many of us by David Attenborough through his sensational Blue Planet series.
Now that we have firmly established this green direction of travel, we must now look how we get to our destination as quickly and safely as possible.
I believe that a simple but significant step that council could and should take would be the eradication of single use plastics from their own offices and facilities. It’s not something that will happen overnight but why not remove items like plastic cups, bottles and so forth from our municipal buildings and in doing so encourage and inspire other agencies, businesses and individuals to do the same?
When awarding contracts to private companies for services or events, consideration should be given to their environmental credentials.
The SDLP have a strong record of protecting our environment. The success of the carrier bag levy is a perfect example of how fresh thinking can reduce damage to our planet and increase revenue that can be ploughed back into other innovative community projects.
We will also spearhead the exciting next phase of the journey by bringing a motion to the next full council meeting calling on council to focus on the removal of these damaging plastics from our waste-stream.
We owe it to our children, grandchildren and future generations to preserve our beautiful planet for them and we owe it to ratepayers now to minimise the money spent on disposal of waste so that it can be spent on other important public services.