After submitting details of our proposed bottle-cap mural project under the Waste Prevention Grant Scheme run by the Environment Section of Wexford County Council and Southern Waste Region, Ferns Tidy Towns were successful in securing funding under this scheme. The idea behind the project was to highlight the negative impacts of single use plastics on our environment. Many thanks to the above for providing the funding and making this project possible. We look forward to working closely with you on further projects and initiatives in the future.

Over the last year we have signed up another 6 businesses on the tap map. That brings to fourteen the number of premises in Ferns offering free tap water refills in reusable bottles. With the help of Wexford County Council and Gorey Municipal Council we also replaced an old broken tap with a new water fountain. This has been a great success with people filling up on the go with fresh tap water.

Early last year we carried out a survey on the street to see how members of the community were managing to reduce single use plastic. We were surprised to discover that there was some confusion over whether or not plastic bottle caps could be recycled. A staggering 60% of those surveyed were putting them in their household waste bin.

Bottle caps are often so small that it is easy to overlook the impact they have on the environment. If you drop one on the ground at the park or the beach, you may think it is not important. However, little caps bobbing in the water can look like an easy meal for a wide variety of wildlife, from fish and sea turtles to marine birds. The animals eat the tops, feel full, do not eat real food and die from starvation. Plastic bottle tops are one of the top 10 items found during marine debris beach clean-ups worldwide and are the second most littered item after cigarette butts. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Most rubbish that ends up in the water begins its journey on land.

We wanted a concrete way to show the local community the large impact such a small thing like a bottle cap could have. The idea behind the project was to make an educational mural from plastic bottle caps showing the importance of reducing/recycling single use plastic to help the environment and prevent plastic waste from damaging our marine life. A marine design and a wildlife/wildflower design were chosen. The ocean theme of the mural will raise awareness of the harmful effects of plastic bottle caps on marine life and the wildflower/wildlife will raise awareness of the effects of plastic to our environment, wildlife and plants.

We started by putting a call out to the community via social media looking for bottle caps of all colours and sizes. Our plan was to get as many members of the community and children involved with recycling and waste prevention in a very hands on way. Hopefully by helping to design and make the mural the community will remember not to drop the cap but recycle it and better still eventually reduce their single use plastic by refilling with tap water instead.

After five months we managed to collect a staggering 90kg of plastic bottle caps. That’s just in our small community. Think of how many tops that is across the country in a year. Now imagine how many it would be worldwide. Now imagine how many that would be in 5 years, in 10… It really is mind blowing.

With a design in mind we asked the local art group, junior members of Ferns Tidy Towns and other members of the community to join us in making the mural. After months of collecting bottle caps we sorting them into various colours and sizes. The design was painted onto the boards and finished with three coats of varnish to protect it from the weather. The next step was to place and glue the bottle caps onto the two 8X4 sheets of marine ply. Once the bottle caps were in place we then painstakingly anchored them into place with screws.

The mural was placed at the Community Vegetable garden and composting demo site. We use this area to educate the community on reducing waste, composting, growing your own, water saving and bee conservation. The community park is used by many local families and with the new playground opening during the Summer we will get the message of reducing plastic waste and recycling out to a large percentage of the community.

We hope the community will take a step back and look at the cap on their drinks bottle. It starts there. Each one makes a difference. Each one you keep out of the ocean and out of landfill, you keep out of our marine animals and the local environment.