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EPA Calls For Measures To Urgently Tackle Packaging Waste Generation.

Waste Sent To Landfill.
  • Ireland generated 1.2 million tonnes of packaging waste in 2021.
  • Ireland is continuing to achieve high levels of recycling for glass (84%) and paper/cardboard (73%).
  • Plastics present a serious challenge. Only 28% of plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2021, a long way off the 2025 EU target of 50%. The majority of Ireland’s plastic packaging waste is being incinerated.
  • Ireland’s overall recycling rate fell from 62% in 2020 to 58% in 2021. It must reach 65% in 2025.
  • Fiscal measures to incentivise householders and businesses are also urgently needed. The new levy on waste sent for recovery, and increases to the landfill levy, will reward better practices of segregation of waste.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published its latest figures on packaging waste in Ireland.

Ireland is meeting current EU recycling targets and achieving high recycling rates for some streams such as glass, paper/cardboard and ferrous metals. However, in 2021, the overall recycling rate for packaging waste fell by 4% to 58%, putting the 2025 target of 65% at risk. While the quantity of packaging waste being recycled is increasing every year, it cannot keep up with the total increase in packaging waste being generated in the first place.

Plastic packaging waste recycling rates remain low, at 28%. Most plastic packaging waste was sent for incineration, with less than one third recycled. Ireland will face significant challenges in meeting the 2025 and 2030 recycling targets for plastic of 50% and 55%.

Commenting on the figures, Mr Micheal Lehane, (Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability) said: “Urgent measures are needed to reduce the quantity of packaging waste generated in Ireland each year. Our current rate of production and consumption of packaging represents a poor use of materials and energy and is a growing source of emissions. With Ireland’s packaging waste exceeding 1.2 million tonnes per year, we need to intensify efforts to avoid unnecessary packaging use in the first instance. Packaging waste can be avoided and reduced by replacing single use with reusable packaging, current examples include pallets, boxes and trays, and through better product design such as lightweighting packaging.”

Poor segregation practices at businesses and homes is leading to high volumes of packaging waste being diverted to energy recovery. This includes materials which can be recycled.

Improved separation by householders and businesses at source is needed to collect higher quantities of recyclable packaging materials. Ensuring waste charges to businesses and householders are clearly incentivising reduction and recycling of packaging wastes will support better separation of materials. Continued awareness and enforcement measures are also needed to support better behaviours.

Mr Warren Phelan, (Programme Manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme) noted: “The fall from 62%to 58% recycling in 2021 is disappointing but not unexpected. Better practices are needed by householders and especially businesses, where there are significant opportunities to divert good quality materials from the residual bin. The new levy on waste sent for recovery, and increases to the landfill levy, will reward better practices of segregation provided customer charging is appropriately incentivised.”

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