9th May – Westport in Co Mayo is on track to become the first town in Ireland to eliminate plastic straws, thanks to the work of its SuperValu TidyTowns committee.
The idea to eradicate single-use straws first came about during a meeting of the Westport TidyTowns committee. The meeting was convened to discuss initiatives that would improve life in the town and that would form the committee’s entry into the 2018 SuperValu TidyTowns competition – which this year celebrates its 60th anniversary.
“We encourage young people to get involved in the TidyTowns committee because they are the future of our town, and the idea to get rid of straws came from the transition year students on the junior committee. We were coming up with different ideas and the teenagers said that all the pubs around have plastic straws – if we could get them all to get rid of them in one go, that would be something,” explains Liam Campion, manager at SuperValu Westport, the Kavanagh Group-owned store that has sponsored Westport’s TidyTowns activities since the 1990s.
“We thought that getting rid of plastic straws would be a first and looked into it further. Some of the businesses on the committee are vintners and we now have a commitment from all vintners in Westport that they will only use biodegradable straws from June 1st,” Mr Campion says. With some 10 hotels and 30 pubs in the town, the Westport TidyTowns committee is confident that the remaining vintners will come on board and move to ban plastic straws.
Westport has had a long association with the SuperValu TidyTowns competition, having won the national prize on three separate occasions. Kavanagh’s Westport has also been at the forefront of sustainability initiatives in the town, including allowing customers to leave plastic packaging in-store after they do their shopping.
“We are a coastal town and want to preserve the wildlife and nature in Westport, so getting rid of plastic straws helps us to do that,” says Rhona Chambers, who is also a member of Westport TidyTowns committee.
Ms Chambers says that the next step for the TidyTowns committee is to persuade coffee shops, take-aways, food stalls and supermarkets in Westport to replace plastic straws with biodegradable alternatives. With Westport’s population set to grow from 5,000 to 25,000 during the busy tourist season, the involvement of other businesses is crucial to ensure the Mayo town is free of plastic.
“The SuperValu TidyTowns competition is all about businesses and communities working together to make a difference and we hope that by eliminating plastic straws we can make a difference to Westport,” Ms Chambers added.
Martin Kelleher, Managing Director, SuperValu, added, “This is the kind of forward-thinking initiative that the SuperValu TidyTowns competition is all about. Westport TidyTowns has got the next generation involved and through this innovative idea is reducing the environmental impact on the town and its surroundings. As Ireland’s leading, community-based, sustainable retailer, we support their efforts to reduce single-use plastics.”