Irish households are creating less waste and disposing less of what we do create

Date released: Aug 06 2014

  • 2012 was the first year that the percentage tonnage of municipal waste recovered (59%) exceeded the percentage tonnage disposed (41%).
  • This reflects a combination of measures including an increase in the use of municipal waste as a fuel and increases in the landfill levy for disposal of waste to landfill.
  • All EU waste reduction targets are on-track albeit with risks around achievement of future targets such as 2015 End-of-Life-Vehicle recycling and recovery targets and 2016 targets for collection of portable batteries.

The EPA today published the 2012 National Waste Report. The data provides valuable information on trends in waste generation and management and show the impact of an evolving waste policy landscape in Ireland, and changing household behaviours in relation to waste generation.

Municipal waste generated per capita has decreased by 24% over the period 2007 to 2012 from 0.78 tonnes of waste generated per person in 2007 to 0.59 tonnes in 2012. Whilst the economic downturn undoubtedly had an impact on the levels of waste generated, this indicates a trend towards less waste generated and improved waste prevention in the country.

Dr Jonathan Derham, EPA Programme Manager, said

The data shows that Irish society is producing less waste per capita and is deriving more value from the waste it does generate through recycling and use as a fuel.  Maximising the resource efficiency of all materials consumed is an essential aim of our transition to a sustainable economy.

2012 was the first year that the percentage tonnage of municipal waste recovered (59%) exceeded the percentage tonnage disposed (41%). This reflects a combination of measures including an increase in the use of municipal waste as a fuel (energy recovery), both in Ireland and abroad, as well as increases in the landfill levy for disposal of waste to landfill.  These estimates also show that 40% of municipal waste was recycled in Ireland in 2012 which is very close the EU28 average (42%).

The 2012 National Waste Report also shows that there is approximately 17.3 million tonnes of remaining consented capacity for landfills and, of this, about 1.6 million tonnes is operational. This equates to circa two years landfill capacity. Alternative treatment options must be developed as landfill capacity continues to decline.                       

Dr Jonathan Derham continued,

There have been significant developments in waste management in recent years as evidenced through the landfill levy, producer responsibility initiatives, the National Waste Prevention Programme, and new waste collection obligations which have been very successful in addressing our historically poor record on waste management. Ireland is now one of the top EU performers in relation to waste generation per capita and in achievement of our EU waste management obligations.” 

Ireland also complied with the 2006 End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) recovery and recycling targets as required under the ELV Directive for the first time in 2012.

The 2012 National Waste Report and details of Ireland’s progress towards EU waste recycling, recovery and diversion targets are now available on the EPA website. 


Notes to Editor:

Municipal waste means household waste as well as commercial and other waste that, because of its nature or composition, is similar to household waste. It excludes municipal sludges and effluents. In the context of this report municipal waste consists of three main elements - household, commercial (including non-process industrial waste), and street cleansing waste (street sweepings, street bins and municipal parks and cemeteries maintenance waste, litter campaign material).

Recovery means any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfill that function, in the plant or in the wider economy. Annex II of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) sets out a non-exhaustive list of recovery operations, which includes material recovery (i.e. recycling), energy recovery (i.e. use a fuel (other than in direct incineration) or other means to generate energy) and biological recovery (eg composting).

Recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.

The EPA is moving towards the publication of more timely waste data with initial figures for 2012 already published earlier this year in an information bulletin. The intention is to publish 2013 figures in a similar bulletin before year-end.