Hazardous waste statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release March 11th 2020, latest reference year 2018

What is hazardous waste?

A waste is hazardous when it can harm human health or the environment because it is explosive, oxidising, flammable, irritant, toxic, carcinogenic, corrosive, infectious, mutagenic, sensitising, or eco-toxic. Hazardous waste is controlled by strict regulations to protect against the threat to people and the environment.

  Examples

Where does hazardous waste come from?

Industry is the largest generator of hazardous wastes such as industrial solvents, sludges, oils and chemicals. Other sectors such as businesses, construction, healthcare, farms and households produce wastes such as lead-acid batteries, certain waste electrical and electronic equipment, healthcare risk waste, solvent-based paints and varnishes, and waste oils. All hazardous products are labelled with one or more of the symbols pictured above.  

 

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How Much Hazardous Waste Does Ireland Produce?

A total of 526,397 tonnes of hazardous waste were generated in Ireland in 2018 (Figure 1).  This was an increase of over 90,000 tonnes since 2017.  The increase was driven by an increase in the quantity of ash from municipal waste incinerators. 

 

Key Trends

 

  • EPA licensed industrial facilities fully treated 30,127 tonnes of their waste on site at their own facilities. Of this waste, 78% was disposed of and 22 % was treated by recovery activities.
  • Irish hazardous waste treatment facilities treated 112,367 tonnes of hazardous waste to non-hazardous status in 2018.
  • In 2018, Ireland exported 383,903 tonnes of its hazardous waste for treatment abroad. Contaminated soils accounted for 74,912 tonnes of our hazardous waste exports.

Figure 1: Quantity of hazardous waste generated and treatment location

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Hazardous Waste Treatment

Hazardous waste must be treated to reduce its potential to pollute the environment or to threaten human health. Ireland’s hazardous waste is treated either on-site at the industrial facility where the waste was generated (under conditions of EPA licence), offsite at hazardous waste treatment facilities, or at facilities in other countries. 

On-Site Treatment at Industrial Facilities

A total of 30,127 tonnes of hazardous was generated and treated on-site by 13 industrial facilities, 78% of this was disposed of and 22% was treated by recovery activities. 

Over 15,000 tonnes of the material that went for disposal was salt cake landfilled by Aughinish Alumina, and almost 7,000 tonnes was incinerated on site by three other companies. 

Approximately 6,500 tonnes was treated in recovery processes, mostly incineration with energy recovery.  Figure 2 shows the range of disposal and recovery activities used.

Figure 2: On-site treatment of hazardous waste at EPA licensed industrial facilities

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Treatment at Irish Hazardous Waste Facilities

In 2018, a total of 112,367 tonnes of hazardous waste was treated at Irish waste facilities. This is an increase of 29% on the previous year (2017 taken as 100%), which is largely attributable to an increase in the treatment of contaminated soils. Other waste types treated included used motor oil, healthcare wastes, sludges, filter cakes, absorbents, laboratory and chemical waste and household hazardous waste from civic amenity sites. These hazardous wastes are treated until they become non-hazardous, before going for further treatment either in Ireland or abroad.

Hazardous Waste Exports

In 2018, Ireland exported 73% (383,903 tonnes) of its hazardous waste to other EU member states and beyond.  Almost 75,000 tonnes of this was contaminated soils (see below) and a total of 308,991 tonnes was various waste types such as chemicals, medical waste, cement kiln dust and ash from municipal waste incinerators.  Ireland does not have the facilities required to treat the full range of hazardous wastes it produces. The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Belgium, Norway and France together accept 99% of non-soil hazardous waste exports. 

Destination countries that accepted this waste for treatment are presented below. The spike in waste sent to the Netherlands in 2018 is due to an increase of approximately 100,000 tonnes of ash from municipal waste incinerators. 

Figure 3: Hazardous waste exports (excl. soils)

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Contaminated Soils

The total amount of contaminated soil generated in Ireland in 2018 was 93,645 tonnes, a slight decrease from 2017 (see Figure 4 below).  A total of 74,912 tonnes of contaminated soil was exported for treatment and the remainder was treated in Ireland.  Contaminated soil accounted for 20% of our hazardous waste exports in 2018.

This soil comes from old industrial sites such as gas works, mines, tanneries, dock yards, petrol stations, etc. and is often contaminated with hazardous chemicals. Contaminated soils must be removed before the site can be used again.

Figure 4: Quantity of contaminated soil treated, 2010-2017

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Open in Excel: Table 1. Hazardous waste management (XLS 10KB)
Open in Excel: Table 2:Hazardous waste treatment at industrial facilities (XLS 9KB)
Open in Excel: Table 3: Hazardous waste exports (XLS 11KB)
Open in Excel: Table 4. Contaminated Soils (XLS 10KB)