Recycling Rates Slow – Ireland Off Track To Meet Key EU Targets.

  • Ireland’s economy remains linear with waste generation continuing to rise. Recycling rates are not keeping pace with increasing levels of waste generation.
  • Ireland is off track to meet mandatory EU recycling targets set to apply from 2025 for municipal waste, packaging waste and plastic packaging waste. These targets are set to progress the circular economy by prioritising recycling over energy recovery and landfill.
  • Ireland remains overly reliant on unpredictable export markets with almost 382,000 tonnes of residual waste sent for incineration abroad.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published the Circular Economy and Waste Statistics Highlights Report 2021. Ireland’s waste generation levels are continuing to rise and Ireland is failing to make sufficient inroads towards key EU recycling targets that apply from 2025 onwards.

The report shows:

  1. Waste Generation: Construction and demolition (C&D) waste increased by 10% to 9 million tonnes and packaging waste is up by 9% to 1.2 million tonnes. Municipal waste generation remained static at 3.17 million tonnes.
  2. Waste recycling: Municipal waste recycling rates remained unchanged at 41%, while packaging recycling fell by 4% to 58%. Just under 28% of plastic packaging generated in Ireland was recycled in 2021, with the remainder being treated by incineration (70%) and disposal (2%). Ireland is off track to meet mandatory EU recycling targets set to apply from 2025 for municipal waste, packaging waste and plastic packaging waste.

Continued high levels of waste generation coupled with stagnating recycling rates mean that it is now very unlikely that Ireland will meet mandatory EU recycling targets for municipal, plastic packaging and total packaging.

Mr David Flynn, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said: “We continue to throw away far too much, wasting valuable materials. We live on a resource-finite planet and resource extraction causes greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and water stress. To reduce these impacts, we must accelerate our transition from a linear economy to a circular, more resource-efficient economy. Right now, we need to focus on avoiding waste. That means reusing construction waste materials where possible, becoming better at segregating our municipal waste and vastly improving the recycling of packaging materials.”

Ireland remains heavily reliant on export for the treatment of several key waste streams in 2021. 38% of municipal waste was exported for treatment in 2021, including 382,000 tonnes of residual waste exported for energy recovery through incineration. Some 69% of packaging waste was exported for treatment.

Commenting on the findings from the report Mr Warren Phelan, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme said: “Ireland is overly reliant on the export of waste for treatment and we are vulnerable to shocks and changes in international markets. We do not have enough facilities for the treatment of non-hazardous and hazardous waste which are missed opportunities to capture the energy and economic value of these wastes.”

To address this Ireland needs to:

  1. Improve waste prevention especially in the C&D sector Roll-out a brown bin service for organic waste to all customers.
  2. Improve waste segregation by businesses and householders putting their waste into the correct bins
  3. Reduce our reliance on vulnerable export markets for our waste
  4. Fully implement our Circular Economy Plan

Further information on National waste statistics are published on the EPA website.
Circular economy and Waste Statistics Highlights Report 2021 is available on the EPA website.


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