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EPA – Ireland’s Packaging Recycling Rates Declining

Ireland’s packaging recycling rates going in wrong direction says Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

  • Recycling rates for packaging are declining – from 74% in 2012 to 64% in 2018 – coinciding with a greater amount incinerated for energy recovery
  • Packaging now accounts for one-third of household waste with paper and cardboard, followed by plastic the most common type of packaging waste.
  • In relation to plastic packaging, Ireland recycled only a third of plastic packaging in 2018, which has decreased for the third year in a row.
  • Less recycling leads to missed opportunities in relation to the efficient use of waste materials and fostering a circular economy in Ireland.
  • We must reduce the amount of packaging used in the first place; improve separation of waste by Irish households and businesses; and broaden the scope of what can be recycled, by expanding Ireland’s recycling list.

31st July 2020: The EPA has today published its latest figures on waste packaging in Ireland. They indicate that Ireland continues to generate significant amounts of waste packaging, amounting to just over 1 million tonnes in 2018, remaining unchanged since 2017. Packaging includes paper and cardboard, plastic, glass, wood and metal.

While Ireland met current EU requirements and achieved high recycling rates in some packaging material streams, in particular glass, paper and cardboard, there are some worrying trends. Overall, recycling rates are on a downward trend with 64% of packaging recycled in 2018 compared with 74% in 2012. This has coincided with an increase in the quantity of packaging sent for incineration with energy recovery in recent years. In relation to plastic packaging, Ireland’s recycling rate has dropped for the third year in a row to 31%.

Dr Eimear Cotter, (Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability), stated, “To get the most from our resources in this area, we need to reduce packaging and reverse our falling recycling rates. Households and businesses can drive this change by avoiding over-packaged goods which sends a strong signal back to producers to innovate for reduced packaging and reusable alternatives. We must also maximise recycling of the remaining materials, and waste collectors have a critical role here in ensuring their customers segregate correctly and use the appropriate bin. To support this, Ireland’s recycling list should, as a matter of urgency, be reviewed to expand the variety of waste types that can be recycled.”

Maximising the prevention, reuse and recycling of packaging materials is an important element of developing a circular economy in Ireland which aims to reduce waste throughout the economic cycle, and ensures that materials are used efficiently. Developing a circular economy is also strong and effective climate action.

Commenting on the figures, Dr Tara Higgins, (EPA Senior Scientist) stated. “Each tonne of packaging releases greenhouse gases during extraction of raw materials, manufacture, transport and waste management process. The quantity of packaging waste generated needs to be reduced to bring about environmental and climate benefits. The Government’s forthcoming Waste and Circular Economy Action Plan provides an opportunity to set out concrete actions that will address the worrying trends highlighted in these figures and help Ireland meet challenging new EU targets in the coming years.”

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