Closing the loop


CIRCULAR SENSE Waste Lands Salvage in Co Clare sells perfectly good items recovered from Clare Waste & Recycling Ltd – fashion, jewellery, décor and builders materials. Pic:

Green Living
McKinley Neal

In the last column, I discussed how we can take action to move to a circular economy model in food retail and restaurants and cafes, given the recently passed Circular Economy Bill 2022. There is loads more scope for ‘closing the loop’ on so many other materials that are already in use, including plastics, textiles and furniture, construction materials and electronic equipment.
The National Waste Prevention Programme 2020 Annual Report estimates that up to 70 percent of materials in commercial bins could be recycled but are instead sent to landfill or ‘energy recovery’ (incineration).
Our current linear economy model is to use any materials that can be procured cheaply enough, and then goods are distributed, sold, used and binned—what is often called the ‘make, take, waste’ approach. We can see this in action most clearly with fast fashion: clothes are manufactured far away, using materials such as new polyester or nylon (synthetic fabrics derived from petroleum), sold in large quantities for low prices and then discarded when they tear, fade or just don’t suit anymore.
The alternative to this cycle is to start by choosing natural materials, or creating new fabrics that are biodegradable and durable, or reclaiming and reprocessing fabrics that are already in existence, such as recycled polyester and nylon. Then, products can be designed to be more robust, and with repairability in mind. Remember that blouses used to routinely include at least one replacement button?
Some manufacturers, such as Patagonia, one of the world leaders in sustainable outdoor clothing design (with a shop in Dublin and online), offer repair services, as well as accepting used goods for return so they can be refurbished and sold secondhand. This commitment to design well—instead of focusing entirely on a short-lived trend—and promote longevity and the recovery of materials is moving us in the right direction.
The same can apply to home and commercial furniture and soft furnishings, electronics and more. Compared to other European countries, Ireland has many opportunities to formalise the secondhand market for home goods, as there are a lack of physical markets and shops where people can buy and sell used home goods rather than taking them to the dump.
The Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun in Dublin is the national leader in this area, selling recycled paint, refurbished furniture, upcycled fashion and repaired bikes, as well as offering workshops to help people learn skills to renew their own goods. Waste Lands Salvage in Co Clare ( sells items recovered from Clare Waste & Recycling Ltd, which is a service that more communities could implement.
Two local Castlebar companies are worth checking out. Burke’s Used Kitchen Store ( sells high quality, secondhand kitchen units and appliances.  Murray’s Recycled Plastic ( creates a range of durable outdoor furniture, signage, fencing and more from recycled plastic residue sourced primarily from the nutrition and packaging industries.
For electronics, local phone repair shops often sell secondhand, or check and for refurbished phones, tablets and computers.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic toods, reusable goods, household products, eco-trendly personal care Items and gifts.