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 to landfill

EPA Waste Data Release, 05 March 2021

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) sets targets for the diversion of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) from landfill. BMW comprises those elements of the municipal waste that will rot or degrade biologically, including food waste, garden and parks waste, waste paper and cardboard. The diversion of BMW helps to reduce odour nuisance and greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, and lessens landfill aftercare burden.

Figure 1: BMW quantity to landfill, compared to Landfill Directive limits.

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Key trends

  • The quantity of BMW disposed to landfill was 145,141 tonnes in 2019 and 104,255 tonnes in 2020. These are well within Ireland’s current limit of 610,000 tonnes, which is calculated based on the tonnage of BMW landfilled in 1995 (1.3 million tonnes).
  • The quantities of BMW to landfill in Ireland have decreased steadily since 2016, as shown in Figure 1.
  • Ireland has met all previous BMW diversion targets and is in compliance with the stricter target for 2020 under the revised Landfill Directive (2018/850), as shown in Figure 1.
  • The decline in BMW to landfill reflects a combination of factors - the falling quantities of municipal waste sent for landfill in Ireland; the increased separate collection of biowaste with the roll-out of brown bins; and the fact that most residual waste in Ireland is now pre-treated mechanically and/or bio-stabilised at waste facilities before it is sent to landfill.
  • As detailed in our Infrastructure tab, only three landfills in Ireland accepted municipal waste in 2020, compared with 28 in 2010. The quantity of municipal waste accepted at landfill in Ireland has declined markedly from 1.5 million tonnes in 2010 to 368,635 tonnes in 2019 and dropped again to 316,942 tonnes in 2020 (see First Look tab, Figure 1). The decrease in municipal residual waste disposed to landfill coincides with additional waste-to-energy capacity as Ireland’s second municipal waste incinerater came into operation in Q2 2017.
  • The decline in BMW to landfill is mirrored in the increase in the quantity of municipal biowaste accepted for composting/anaerobic digestion in Ireland (see Composting and Anaerobic Digestion tab, Figure 1), which has increased significantly since 2010 with the introduction of the Food Waste Regulations and the associated roll out of brown bins to commercial premises and households. The revised Waste Framework Directive ((EU) 2018/851) makes the seperate collection of biowaste mandatory from end-2023, which can be expected to result in further increases in the quantities of municipal biowaste collected and recycled in Ireland in the years ahead.
  • As outlined in our Infrastructure tab (Tables 4 and 5), Ireland had authorised capacity for composting, anaerobic digestion and biostabilisation of organic fines of 687,660 tonnes in 2019. It is essential that there is adequate composting and anaerobic treatment infrastructure in the State to manage the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill and further increases in the separate collection of biowaste in Ireland in the years ahead. 
Open in Excel: Table 1 BMW quantities disposed to landfill (XLS 12KB)