Ireland in danger of missing EU target for biodegradable waste diversion from landfill

Date released: Jan 29 2008

Ireland is now in significant danger of missing its 2010 target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill, according to the National Waste Report 2006, published today by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Overall, the report shows that although the quantity of waste that was recycled increased between 2005 and 2006, so too did the total quantity of waste generated.

Dr. Padraic Larkin, Deputy Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency, said:

“This report shows that the amount of waste going to landfill is increasing, not decreasing as we would have expected if Ireland is to meet its EU commitment to landfill less than one million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste by 2010. The EPA is calling for urgent action to reverse this trend. There are several policy instruments that could turn the tide within one to two years. These include increasing the landfill levy and banning the landfilling of untreated waste. This problem must be tackled in 2008.”

Quantities and rates of recycled waste
The quantity of waste being recycled continues to grow significantly.  In 2006, the amount of municipal waste being recycled increased by 18 per cent.  The figures show that an additional 14 per cent of household waste was recycled in 2006 with increases of 8 and 26 per cent for packaging waste and biodegradable municipal waste respectively.

Despite the increases in the actual quantity of waste recycled, the rate of municipal waste recycling only increased from 34 per cent in 2005 to 36 per cent in 2006. The recycling rate for household waste remained at 22 per cent in the same period despite the roll-out in all parts of the country of two-bin and three-bin systems for household waste collection and the large scale use of bring banks (where 14 per cent more waste was deposited in 2006) and civic amenity sites (where 84 per cent more waste was deposited in 2006).

Dr. Gerry Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“Overall, there is very good progress to report on the recycling front. Householders and businesses are willing to recycle once they are given the appropriate incentives and services.”

Increase in landfilling of waste
The quantity of municipal waste being disposed of to landfill increased by 8 per cent in 2006, a disappointing result given the overall progress in reducing landfill since 2001.

According to Dr. Gerry Byrne:

“significant problems remain with regard to waste disposal. Urgent action is required in 2008 to divert waste from landfill and prevent further increases in waste generation.”

Broken down, the figures show that disposal of household waste to landfill increased by 15 per cent, packaging waste by 16 per cent and biodegradable municipal waste by 9 per cent.  Increasing quantities of waste going to landfill means that recycling rates remain lower than they should be. 

Packaging prevention
Again, despite significant increases in the quantity of packaging waste recycled, the rate of packaging waste recycling actually decreased from 59 per cent in 2005 to 57 per cent in 2006. Ireland still remains ahead of its 2005 target on packaging waste (to recycle 50 per cent).  The 2011 target (60 per cent) is well within reach. The report recommends that reducing the use of packaging in the first place should be a greater priority.

Dr. Gerry Byrne points out:

“Prevention of packaging, especially the difficult-to-recycle packaging, is the environmentally sustainable way of increasing the packaging recycling rate. Repak is already engaged in a packaging prevention programme and should continue to lead this sector and provide new impetus to its members to ‘prevent and save’.”

Waste Electrical and Electronic Waste (WEEE) recycling
The scheme for collecting waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), introduced in 2005, has proven extremely successful in getting waste into the recycling net. A significant 7.4 kg per capita of household WEEE was collected for recycling in 2006, almost double the EU target of 4 kg per capita.

“This result demonstrates the effectiveness of the WEEE producer responsibility scheme,”
said Dr. Gerry Byrne.
“But we should be concerned that society is generating so much waste. It would be better if electrical and electronic equipment lasted longer, was kept for longer, was repaired when broken or was reused instead of being thrown out.”

Hazardous waste
Hazardous waste generation decreased between 2004 and 2006. Hazardous waste generation is dominated by industry, and in particular by the chemical and pharmaceutical sector. The EPA’s Proposed National Hazardous Waste Management Plan sets out a framework for hazardous waste prevention, collection and management for the next five years. The Proposed Plan remains open for public consultation until 31 January.

Construction and Demolition waste
Construction and demolition waste accounts for 55 per cent of all waste and stands at almost 17 million tonnes. Reported recycling rates are down. The report recommends that the construction industry should reinvigorate its voluntary commitment to better waste management practices and to monitoring and reporting its wastage of materials.

“The current downturn in construction should highlight to the industry the benefit of cost savings that can be achieved by not over-ordering materials, reducing waste generation and ensuring that waste is reused or recycled,”
said Dr. Gerry Byrne.

Download the National Waste Report 2006 from the EPA website. 

Notes to Editor:

  1. Prevent and Save: refers to Repak’s existing packaging prevention programme that is 50 per cent funded by the Environmental Protection Agency through the National Waste Prevention Programme.
  2. A Discussion Paper ‘Hitting the Targets for Biodegradable Municipal Waste: Ten Options for Change’ will be released by the EPA on Friday, 1st of February 2008