Municipal Waste Statistics for Ireland

EPA Waste Data Release, 17 December 2019

Latest Reference Year 2017

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and some commercial waste that is similar to household waste.  The EPA reports data on how much municipal waste is generated and how it is treated.  In 2017, Ireland generated 2,768,043 tonnes (t) of municipal waste and recycled 40% of this.  

MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

 

Municipal waste recycled, used as a fuel and disposed to landfill (tonnes), 2012 - 2017

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What is Municipal Waste?

In our everyday lives we produce a general mix of waste in our homes, offices, schools and similar premises. This type of waste is called municipal waste. It is usually collected at kerbside or we can bring it to collection centres.  The amount of municipal waste generated in our country is an important measure of how wasteful our everyday lives are.

Municipal Waste includes these following waste types:

  • Residual (i.e. black bin) waste e.g. waste that cannot be recycled
  • Recyclable (i.e. green bin) waste e.g. glass, plastic, paper & board, metals
  • Organic (i.e. brown bin) waste e.g. food and garden waste
  • Bulky waste e.g. waste that cannot fit in a wheelie bin such as broken furniture, carpets, toys etc. 
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)

 

Key Trends

  • Ireland generated 2,768,043 t of municipal waste in 2017, this is less than one per cent increase since 2016.  
  • Each person living in Ireland generated an average of 577 kg of municipal waste in 2017.
  • In 2017, a total of 2,723,543 t of municipal waste was managed in Ireland. ‘Managed waste’ is waste collected and treated by the waste industry.
  • The EPA estimates that 44,500 t was unmanaged in 2017. ‘Unmanaged’ is waste that is not collected or brought to a waste facility and is therefore likely to cause pollution in the environment because it is burned, buried or dumped
  • In 2017, over three quarters (77%) of municipal waste was recovered, this is an increase from 74% in 2016. ‘Recovered’ means the waste was recycled, incinerated for energy recovery or used to cover landfilled waste.
  • The recycling rate of municipal waste managed in 2017 was 41%, this is the same as 2014 and 2016. The recycling rate of municipal waste generated in 2017 was 40%, this is a decrease from 41% in 2016. ‘Recycled’ means the waste was broken down and used to make new items and includes the breakdown of food and garden waste to make compost.  
  • Less than a quarter (23%) of municipal waste was landfilled in 2017, this is a decrease from 26% in 2016. ‘Disposed’ means waste was landfilled or burned in incinerators without energy recovery.  

 

Future Focus

Municipal waste generation, economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland follow similar trends over time, as illustrated in Figure 2 below. Inefficient consumption and missed opportunities for reuse and recycling lead to higher waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions.

As discussed in Ireland's Waste Story, the future focus now needs to be on waste prevention and achieving a circular economy so we can make the most of our resources while protecting the environment.    

Ireland's Municipal Waste and Disposable Income Over Time

Ireland’s recycling rate has not changed significantly between 2012 and 2017 and is below future EU municipal waste recycling targets.  Ireland will need to implement new initiatives and policies to improve municipal recycling rates if we are to achieve these future targets.

Please note, the EPA uses guidance on municipal waste data collection, which is available on the Eurostat website (the European Union’s statistical Office), to compile municipal waste data.

Open in Excel: Table 1 Municipal waste generated, managed and treated in 2012 to 2017 (XLS 12KB)
Open in Excel: Table 2 Municipal waste generated by origin and by type in 2017 (XLS 11KB)
Open in Excel: Table 3 Municipal waste managed 2007 to 2017 (XLS 10KB)

Biodegradable municipal waste disposal to landfill

Biodegradable municipal waste disposed to landfill

EPA Waste Data Release, 14 April 2020

Biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) comprises those elements of the municipal waste that will rot or degrade biologically, for example food waste, garden and parks waste, waste paper and cardboard. Under the Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) there are targets for the diversion of BMW from disposal to landfill. Diversion of BMW from landfill will assist mitigation of odour nuisance, reduce the aftercare burden for landfills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The quantity of BMW disposed to landfill in 2019 was 145 ktonnes, compared to 190 ktonnes in 2018.

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Key trends

  • Ireland has met all Landfill Directive targets for diversion of BMW from disposal to landfill to date.
  • The tonnage of BMW disposed to landfill decreased year on year up to 2014 but increased in 2015 and again in 2016. The falling trend of BMW tonnages to landfill is re-established from 2017 on.
  • It is very important that there is adequate treatment infrastructure in Ireland to manage the increasing diversion from landfill of biodegradable waste, and that recovery of waste is favoured over disposal, in line with the EU waste hierarchy.

BMW quantity disposed to landfill, compared to Landfill Directive limits.

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Open in Excel: Table 1 BMW quantities disposed to landfill (XLS 12KB)