Celtic Circle
Richard Anthony

December 2003 Recycle Scene


This fall (October 2003) Debbie and I traveled through Ireland and Wales.  A recycler's holiday in the land of the Celtic tribes, Debbie's roots, and zero waste workshops, my passion.

We flew in to Ireland at the Shannon airport and traveled by taxi, bus and train.  We stayed several nights in Limerick, Galway and Dublin each.  While walking the shops and seeing the attractions, we observed the disappearance of the plastic bag.  There is now a tax on plastic bags in Ireland.  At night, on local Irish TV, we tuned in to a public debate over a newly introduced "bin" tax. 

The European Union has mandated reductions in organics disposed of in landfill. The Government of Ireland is part of the Union and sees the new tax as a way to finance these newly mandated "waste management costs."  A commercial on TV, aired after 9:00 PM that week because of its graphic content, showed an Irish neighborhood submerged under a tidal wave of garbage. 

In the debate, the public never denies the need for recycling but complains about the new tax.  Being from California, we were able to swap opinions with cab drivers and locals on the benefits of Arnold (they wanted to tell me); and the reasons for the bin tax (I wanted to know their opinion).  This is "Quid Pro Quo" tourist style.

In Dublin, we saw the Book of Kells at Trinity College.  This is one of the oldest books in the world, or Ireland, or somewhere.  This book includes original transcripts of the bible written by Irish monks during the Roman Empire.  Debbie being a librarian was very impressed about the book, and I was impressed with the display that showed how the pages of these books were made out of animal skins; and that the inks came from all over the world (blues from
Afghanistan).

Through out Ireland we were able to communicate with the folks at home through Internet cafes we found in Galway, Dublin and later in Cork. 

We took the ferry from Dublin to Wales, the train to Bangor, and a taxi to Beaumaris, which is located in North Western Wales on the historic Island of Anglesey along the Menai Straits.  In this beautiful seacoast town with a 13th century castle, we had a view from our hotel room across the Straits facing the mountains of Snowdonia.  One morning I awoke to a sunrise that splashed color over the straits and on the newly fallen snow of Snowdonia.  It was remarkably both "brilliant and lovely".

The first meeting of the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) Board of Directors included over a dozen people representing NGO's from many countries in both hemispheres.  Our agenda included drafting the mission and charter for the group.  In three days of discussions, of which one member characterized as"violent agreement," we produced a draft charter, an application for nonprofit NGO status, and a plan for the next year.  We agreed that the mission of the Zero Waste International Alliance will be "Working toward a world without waste though public education and practical application of zero waste principles."


After our meeting we traveled east to Llandudno, Wales, for the annual Wales recycling conference.  The Welsh Recycling Association is called "CYLCH" which is Welsh for circle. The Saint George Hotel in Llandudno AKA "Where Snowden meets the sea" or Beautiful haven of peace"  was the venue for the CYLCH Conference whose theme was Getting it Sorted. 

Llandudno is a coastal resort town with a century of Welsh history.  The speakers represented the Welsh Government, recycling industries, collectors and processors.  The Welsh have the social and legal organization, and most of the market infra structure in place to seriously pursue a zero waste system. 

Although in Ireland we were able to communicate to the folks at home via e-mail at inter net cafes, we did not find the cafes in Wales.  We found instead the inter net at the post office and pubic libraries.  Wales has a great system of Internet access through the public library system making the location of the local library wherever we went, a necessity.

After the CYLCH conference, we had a weekend in the City of Cardiff.  Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and was a major port for the US troops in WW II. We spent the days in the city, the Castle and the port area, locating and exploring the public museums and the local library. 

On Tuesday the first Zero Waste Workshops began in Cardiff.  This workshop was quiet and thoughtful. Over a hundred recyclers came from southern Wales to hear the international experts speak about zero waste.  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Colorado, California, Japan and England were represented. 

Eric and I led a workshop on education.  My input was "Save Wales, Recycle."  There was a "can do " spirit at this event that implied the inevitable success of Zero Waste in Wales. Thursday morning we flew to Cork, Ireland for the second of four zero waste workshops.  Cork is the second largest Irish City and in our cab drivers opinion the only true one. 

We arrived after the opening session. Several hundred people were in attendance.  I joined the conference and Debbie went looking for the Blarney stone and the local library. The atmosphere was intense in the conference hall and the room was full of elected officials, business people and concerned citizens. 

Mal Williams Executive Director of CYLCH and our host for the ZWIA meeting, the CYLCH conference and all four zero waste workshops and his enthusiastic staff had developed an agenda that sprinkled the international speakers with local program mangers and successful programs.  There was much emotion and discussion and a lot of consensus in the end.  I think we witnessed the beginning of the Zero Waste Ireland campaign.

From Cork back to Limerick by train and then a cab the next morning to the airport at Shannon, we were home again after nearly 24 hours in airports and planes. 

While we were gone San Diego County's outlying and rural area caught on fire and State and National forest, Indian lands and private property burned.  The aftermath left dozens dead, hundreds of homes destroyed, thousands of people left homeless, and tens of thousands of acres of smoldering burned out land.  Most of the recycling coordinators in fire areas are working in disaster relief and now, cleanup programs. 

We arrived home in time to be part of the Enviro Fair organized by San Diego CRRA Chapter President Nancy Strauss.  Over three hundred citizens attended the event.  After a workshop on venue recycling, an after lunch lecture by Captain Moore on plastic pollution in the ocean ("move over plankton here comes plastic"), and the green building workshop, several dozen people met with the leaders of key environmental groups with the intent of organizing a zero waste communities alliance in San Diego.

We had come full circle.

Richard Anthony is a member of the Board of Directors of the California Resource Recovery Association and can be contacted at raa@richardanthonyassociates.com or www.richardanthonyassociates.com