Municipal Waste Statistics for Ireland

EPA Waste Data Release September 25th 2020

Latest Reference Year 2018

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and 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 2018, Ireland generated 2,912,353 tonnes of municipal waste and recycled 38 per cent of it.  

MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

 

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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 2.9 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2018, up 3.5% on 2017.
  • Some 1.1 million tonnes of Ireland’s municipal waste was recycled in 2018, resulting in a recycling rate of 38% in 2018, down from 40% in 2017 and 41% in 2016. These trends indicate that Ireland faces significant challenges to meet the upcoming EU recycling targest for 2020 to 2035 (Figure 1).
  • Of the municipal waste recycled in 2018, 851,294 tonnes went for material recycling and 245,482 tonnes was composted.
  • A total of 1.2 million tonnes (43%) of municipal waste went for incineration with energy recovery in 2018, up significantly from 32% in 2017 and just 7% in 2012. These trends reflect increased incineration capacity nationally, and a shift away from disposing of residual waste to landfill.
  • Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste dropped to just 14% in 2018, down significantly from 23% in 2017 and reflecting a continuing steep decline from 62% in 2008 (Figure 2).
  • Ireland remains heavily reliant on export markets; altogether 35% of Ireland’s municipal waste was exported for recycling or recovery in 2018 (over 654,000 tonnes for recycling, 287,000 tonnes for energy recovery and almost 75,000 tonnes for composting). A further 6,000 tonnes was exported for disposal.
  • Overall, the current trends indicate that more needs to be done to prevent waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation, as well as to significantly increase Ireland’s recycling rates in the coming years.

Figure 1: Municipal waste recycled, used as fuel and disposed to landfill (tonnes), 2001 - 2018

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Future focus

Ireland’s recycling percentage has not improved significantly between 2012 and 2018; and is below future EU municipal waste recycling targets. To improve municipal waste recycling percentages and reach future EU tragets, we need to

  • Prevent waste: buy less, instead swap, share and repair.
  • Recycle more.

This will also reduce our emissions and use of raw materials.

Open in Excel: Table 1 Municipal waste generated, managed and treated (XLS 12KB)
Open in Excel: Mun_2018_T2 (XLS 11KB)
Open in Excel: Mun_2018_T3 (XLS 9KB)
Open in Excel: Mun_2018_T4 (XLS 11KB)

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)