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Shop And Drop Drogheda - Guest Blog

Posted by Claudia Tormey on March 05, 2020 at 05:13 PM

SoP Drogheda Action

Brid Ni Chionaola is a member of the Drogheda Sick of Plastic local group, who formed in October 2019 and have been active in pressuring their local supermarkets to Break Free From Plastic.

Be inspired, find your local group (or start one) and join the campaign for the next day of action April 25th!

Shop and Drop at Tesco Extra November 2019

The story of our Sick of Plastic Campaign in Drogheda all began in September 2019 after I read Michelle Obama’s autobiography and felt inspired by it to connect more to my community in Drogheda/Dublin (I live in Meath about 8 miles from Drogheda). I joined several environmental organisations and at an Extinction Rebellion Dublin meeting, someone mentioned the Sick of Plastic Campaign by Friends of the Earth and Voice Ireland. I checked it out and was delighted to find so much support and even written step by step instructions on how to run the Campaign on ChangeX.com. I was also delighted with the non-confrontational aspect to the campaign - it felt friendly to the supermarkets and to their customers. Thus our Sick of Plastic Campaign in Drogheda began with a Public meeting in Sarsfield’s pub in Drogheda on October 14th 2019.

In the lead up to the Public meeting, most of the work involved putting up posters around Drogheda about the meeting, getting in touch with anyone I knew in Drogheda and asking them to come and to share the Facebook event I’d set up, asking people’s advice about where to put posters etc. I am on Facebook but marginally on Instagram so when someone younger from Extinction Rebellion Drogheda joined, I asked her to take over the Instagram and twitter posting. Local radio stations and newspapers (especially the online news platform Drogheda life) were very helpful in spreading the word.

Seven or eight people turned up for the public meeting and it went well. People were full of off-shoot ideas and I think this is where the instructions from the SOP campaign were useful in focussing the group on the next step and the purpose and remit of this campaign. We then set up a Whatsapp group to stay in touch. Some people are not on Whatsapp so I also post some admin postings on the Facebook and ChangeX page. Most of the people who turned up were very committed so we were ready to roll. What I noticed doing this was that you don’t need loads of people as the campaign is a very focussed and simple. Also, the space in Supermarkets is limited and already harangued customers can feel hassled by too many people asking them the same question.

We set a date, November 9th, for our Shop and Drop event (where customers are asked to leave their plastic packaging in the shop and to sign the Sick of Plastic petition) and decided on Tesco Extra in Drogheda as it is the biggest supermarket around. Liaising with the supermarket was a bit tricky initially. I dropped up the letter informing them we would be doing this in their store. I heard nothing and decided to call in again as it was impossible to get through to them by phone. The next manager I spoke to was not happy that we were coming to his store. He said he would get back to me and I didn’t hear anything so I called in again. This time he was much friendlier and we got the go ahead to be inside for the Shop and Drop event and when asking people to sign the petition. He said the HR manager would look after bins for plastic etc, which was a great help.

Before the Shop and Drop event, there was another round of contacting media, social media and any other contacts letting people know the event was going ahead.

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Here is our review of the day:

What worked?

Amount of volunteers – not too many as there wasn’t much space behind tills. 4 or 5 maximum recommended. 

We were inside.

The staff and management of Tesco were very friendly and helpful on the day - they set up a cage to collect the plastic left behind. The main manager greeted us and got us everything we needed, said we could use staff toilets and the canteen!

Customers were responsive and most signed the petition. We got over 400 signatures. I was particularly surprised by older people who, when asked if they were sick of plastic packaging, responded with a resounding “YES!”. They remembered the good old days before everything was wrapped in plastic and before they had to jump into the plastic bin to pound down the amount of stuff in it.

What didn’t work?

We had no banner or way of showing who we were (we wore high viz jackets) so customers didn’t know who we were and the photographer from paper nearly missed us.  

Share how you caught people’s attention on the day– what did you say or do?

By asking: Are you sick of plastic packaging? 

If they said yes we asked them to sign the petition. 

If they said No, we asked “Really? Do you know where it ends up? In landfill, in incinerators or in the sea.” Then they either engaged or went about their merry way.

Review of Media coverage

Newspaper coverage:

  • Drogheda Leader – small bit in News in Brief 20/11/2019.
  • Drogheda life – two articles Oct regarding public meeting and looking for volunteers for the event and on their FB page. 
  • Drogheda Independent – Nothing even though they sent a photographer to the Tesco event.

Radio:

  • LMFM Gerry Kelly – 5 minute interview before public meeting
  • LMFM Michael Reade – 15 minute interview before day of action.

We also did a Supermarket audit after the Shop and Drop event and wrote the results up in a letter to the management of Tesco Extra telling them where they need to reduce plastic packaging, and also told them we collected over 400 petition signatures in their supermarket.

The next day of action will be taking place on April 25th, and we are getting ready and hope to cover a few supermarkets on the day. We will be keeping an eye on supermarkets we have audited to see if anything changes with their use of packaging.

Brid - Sick of Plastic Drogheda.

Get involved in the campaign by signing up to the Sick of Plastic mailing list here at the link. To join Brid's local group, or another group near you - check out the Sick of Plastic local action groups here. If you don't see a group in your area - why not be the first to set one up!

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