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Coveney launches An Taisce’s Green Schools and Marine Litter Initiative

Published on Monday, 21 Nov 2016
Minister Simon Coveney
Minister Coveney at the launch of An Taisce's Green Schools and Marine Litter Initiative

Mr Simon Coveney T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, today (21 November 2016), launched the Global Citizen Marine Environment Module of An Taisce’s Green Schools Programme

Speaking in Crosshaven Co. Cork, at the launch, the Minister described the module as a ground breaking programme and he called it genuinely "world leading" in terms of marine environmental education and raising public awareness.

The Minister said ‘Green Schools has done so much to raise the environmental awareness of the children of today and instil in them a strong and active concern for the protection of our environment.’

Referring to the problem of marine litter, he described it as a persistent problem affecting all regions of the world and that it was largely due to poor waste management on land and at sea. ‘Thus, we can all play a part in helping to reduce the problem by preventing littering and reducing, reusing or recycling items that might otherwise ultimately end up in our seas or on our coasts,’ the Minister said.

The Minister also highlighted the trans-boundary nature of the problem saying that Ireland is working hard in co-operation with the EU and other North Eastern Atlantic States, in developing measures to address this issue.

The Minister went on to say that the true success of the Green Schools programme would be measured not only by the deep care and respect for our environment that it fosters in our young people, but also the drive and commitment to actively change things for better outcomes.  It is confidently hoped that not only will the programme alter student mind-sets and influence positive student behaviour but that the children participating will then become enthusiastic ambassadors influencing their family and friends in turn.

Concluding, the Minister directly addressed the students present saying ‘you are the future custodians of our planet and I am optimistic that it is in very good hands.’


Editor's notes

The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government has supported  the development of a pilot project relating to marine litter in which we want to heighten awareness of the issue and to influence a change in behaviour which will eventually lead to a reduction of litter which ends up in the marine environment.

The Green Schools Initiative is operated and co-ordinated by the Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce in Ireland in partnership with Local Authorities throughout the country. It is supported by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and is sponsored by the Wrigley Company Ltd and Irish Water.

One of the key success factors of the Green-Schools programme is that it is a themed programme. That is, schools undertaking the programme work through the seven steps one theme at a time. The themes in sequence are:

  • Litter, Waste, Energy, Water, Travel, Biodiversity and Global Citizenship

The Green Schools Programme has been regarded as being highly successful over a series of Modules sponsored by various Government Department and Agencies.  Green-Schools, known internationally as Eco-Schools, is an international environmental education programme, environmental management system and award scheme that promotes and acknowledges long-term, whole school action for the environment.  The programme has been in existence for over 20 years, with schools from 58 countries worldwide and 14 million students now taking part. Eco-Schools is a fundamental initiative which encourages young people to engage in their environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it.

Other An Taisce Initiatives supported by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government  include:

  • The Blue Flag Scheme – this relates to water quality and amenity standards at bathing waters and marinas throughout Ireland
  • Green Coast Awards for less populated bathing waters
  •  The #2minute beach clean station campaign
  • The photographic awards each autumn which heightens awareness of our marine  environment.

The success and importance of these programmes in terms of awareness raising and promoting citizen involvement, as well as the invaluable role the perform in helping to maintain the high quality of our coast has  ensured their inclusion  in Ireland’s formal programme of measures  for  the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive – the instrument guiding all EU marine environmental policy.  As such we are committed to supporting these programmes over the coming years.

Marine Litter

Marine litter is a persistent problem affecting all regions of the world. The extent of the world’s marine litter is attributed to increased human pressures on the oceans and the failure to implement and enforce regional and international regulations and standards. Expansions in the level of economic and social activities that take place on the oceans and along coastal areas generate waste also contribute to the problem. With much of the waste finding its way into the marine environment, the effects can be noticed far from where the waste entered the water and will possibly remain in the seas for centuries.

Marine litter is defined as “as any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. Litter consists of items that have been made or used by people and deliberately discarded or unintentionally lost in the sea or on beaches, including materials transported from land into the marine environment by rivers, run-offs, sewage systems or winds.”

Marine litter constitutes a vast and growing threat to the marine and coastal environment with negative impacts on animal and human life. There is a constant build-up of marine litter because most of it is made from materials that are slow to degrade naturally or just don’t degrade at all. The need for proper and efficient waste management is recognised internationally as an issue that must be addressed worldwide.

Acknowledging the extent of the global marine litter problem, Ireland’s attention to marine litter focuses on obligations to implement measures to address the problem in the broader context of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Ireland recently finalised a programme of measures to comply with the requirements of the MSFD and we are now about to embark of the implementation of the multi-phase, multi-cycle process.

Plastic litter

Plastic is a particular problem for the marine environment.  Due to its buoyancy, it can easily be washed down rivers, blown offshore and dispersed by currents. It can also be dumped or lost directly from ships and fishing boats.  As it does not biodegrade it persists in the environment in the long-term and can breakdown into secondary micro-plastic particles through erosion.

Other Marine Litter Initiatives supported by DHPCLG include:

  • A representative longitudinal marine litter survey, based on OSPAR methodology, which identifies trends and issues over time
  • A Seabed litter Survey to assess the scale and scope of sea bed litter
  • The Fulmar project  to assess the level of plastic in biota using fulmars as an  indicative species
  • Development of new low carbon plastic recycling, converting plastic waste found in the marine environment into an in-demand raw material for 3D printer uses as well as low tech solutions
  • EU research on sources and pathways of marine litter
  • Fishing for litter in association with BIM and Port and Local Authorities, to encourage green ports and reducing boat and ship sourced pollution and litter
  • Sediment sampling from around Ireland’s coast to ascertain micro plastic content
  • A number of new projects will be announced in 2017