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Student’s experiment sees him put crisp packets to novel use




Crisp packets are annoying; they’re noisy, they’re never actually full, and they can’t be easily recycled. But what if crisp packets could be re-used for something cool?

Garreth Smith, a past pupil of Galway Technical Institute, realised they could be used for something more than crisps – skateboards. Yep, skateboards.

While studying in Dublin, he entered a project design competition with the task of identifying types of waste and creating something of value.

While walking through campus one day, he was handed a free packet of Doritos and he got an idea. The packets reminded him of his childhood where his parents would shrink them in the oven – “they used to shrink down considerably but they’d be much firmer to the touch”, he explains.

He began experimenting with the material and methods for about six months and the first object he made was a stool for the competition.

Garreth thought more could be done and so, he took it on as his final year project and, as a big skateboarding fan, he decided to use this opportunity to make something he loves.

The 24-year-old began his research and found that due to the foil in crisp packets, the only way for them to be recycled is to take that foil off.

“But it takes a lot of effort and energy, so there’s no economic incentive to do it and, so, the packets end up in landfills,” says Garreth.

Traders in India were the only example he could find of people using a method like this and they would weave the material into colourful ropes. Garreth felt as though he “stumbled upon a goldmine because it’s such a popular material” and not a lot was being done with it.

Keogh’s Crisps gave Garreth five or six large bin bags filled with the waste from production, such as bags which weren’t printed right or bags which didn’t seal correctly.

It takes around 500 packets to make one skateboard and the process isn’t quick either; the packets all have to be cleaned manually and are shredded. Garreth started shredding them by hand but he realised it wasn’t the way to go and, so, invested in a shredder.

The shredded packets then go into clear halogen ovens for an hour to 90 minutes to shrink. Small amounts go in at a time as Garreth explains they wouldn’t melt or mould properly otherwise.

This produces “two blobs” which are kneaded together and put into a mould. “They’re like really hot and sticky piles of plastic,” laughs Garreth. Pressure is put on the mould using a press and after 20 minutes it’s popped out of the mould.

From there, any excess material is taken off and wheels and grip tape are applied, and there you go – a Bruscair Board. It can take three to four hours to make for one person to make a single board.

It took trial and error but Garreth’s perseverance resulted in a successful Bruscair Board. He also designed and did the 3D work for the wooden mould used for the boards. “That was probably the hardest part of the project,” he admits, “it took an incredible amount of time.”

Bruscair Boards haven’t been available to buy as Garreth explains that “they would never have come close to the safety standards that skateboards currently have to adhere to.” However, he is hopeful that he can work at the boards and make them function in the future.

There are three of these boards in existence at the moment but Garreth laughs as he says that he has broken another five through testing, “they can support your weight no problem”, but he explains that if the board lands from a height of one or two feet then it can snap.

Garreth has since finished college and, although he is from Valentia Island in Kerry, he decided to move back to Galway and his sights are set on bigger and better projects using his original idea. “You could possibly apply this material to a wall; it could be used as an insulator for houses,” he suggests.

The Vault, a new indoor skate park and rock-climbing facility coming to the city later in the year, will play host to Garreth and his inventive skills. He hopes to do workshops teaching kids about recycling and will plan his role there more in the coming months.


Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley



An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham



The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley



Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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