Cork Environmental Initiative Commended in Brussels and New York

Environmental initiative established in Cork, SMILE Resource Exchange, has been invited to address the International Conference on Sustainable Development Practice (ICSDP) on 6 September 2013 at Columbia University, New York. Having been invited to present the programme to the European Commission, DG Enterprise earlier this year, the initiative is also competing to be crowned the EU’s most innovative low-carbon initiative in the European Commission’s “A World You Like With A Climate You Like” challenge.

It is estimated that the European Union produces up to 3 billion tonnes of waste every year with 360 million tonnes of waste generated from manufacturing activities. Needless to say, the generation of waste is a major contributor to pollution and environmental damage worldwide. The fact that 99% of all businesses in the EU are SME’s and collectively contribute to 85% of EU GDP indicates that there is a strong need to support SME’s to improve their waste management practises. There is an emerging focus now on Re-Use by businesses as recycling levels have improved with an overall objective towards waste prevention. Not only will a reduction in waste help the environment, it will also lower businesses operational costs and can provide opportunities for new companies who wish to upcycle – transform what would otherwise be waste into new products. (Examples below)

Cork based organisation Macroom E established the SMILE Resource Exchange initiative just three years ago. Macroom E is a collaboration of public sector bodies which includes Cork County Council, Enterprise Ireland and South Cork Enterprise Board which aims to foster economic activity and to promote environmental best practise to businesses. The SMILE programme is a resource efficiency initiative which aims to assist businesses to re-use each other’s materials, by-products and surplus ‘waste’ products in order to reduce waste going to landfill. In short, the programme works on the basis of “one person’s waste is another person’s resource”. Furthermore, the project aims to increase the life of resources through re-use and by so doing to promote more sustainable business practises, a lowering of operational costs and to encourage new businesses to develop in the area of upcycling. Currently the programme has over 1,000 business members and operates in Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Clare and Kerry and the initiative is growing all the time.

Having been invited to present the programme to the European Commission, DG Enterprise in May of this year, the initiative is now competing for an EU competition and is currently ranked in the top 10 of the 269 projects submitted from all over Europe. The project is competing to be crowned the EU’s most innovative low-carbon initiative in the European Commission’s “A World You Like, With A Climate You Like” challenge. To support the SMILE Resource Exchange in the competition, members of the public can cast a vote daily on this link – http://bit.ly/VoteSMILE or by logging on to www.smileexchange.ie . Voting is open until September 6th.

Furthermore, Columbia University, New York has invited the project to speak at its upcoming Conference on Sustainable Development Practice which is being held in New York on the 6th/7th September. Maeve Bowen, General Manager of Macroom E and Michelle Green, Project Manager of SMILE Resource Exchange will be addressing the conference presenting the SMILE initiative as a best practise model in influencing positive behavioural change in business in relation to the environment under the conference theme “Redefining the Role of Business for Sustainable Development.”

The conference aims to share and identify practical, evidence-based solutions that can support the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) leadership in shaping the Post-2015 Agenda. The conference seeks to mobilize the expertise of the scientific and technical communities in academia, civil society and the private sector. Also addressing the conference will be Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals.

SMILE Resource Exchange was initially piloted in Cork in 2010 supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, Cork County & City Councils and Cork County & City Enterprise Boards. Subsequently, in 2011, the initiative was expanded into Limerick, Clare and Kerry supported by the Regional Waste Management Office and Enterprise Boards in this region. More recently, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, announced the expansion into Dublin supported by South Dublin County Council and South Dublin Enterprise Board.

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