Date released: September 12, 2022
12 September 2022: The EPA has today published its latest figures on packaging waste in Ireland. Ireland is meeting current EU recycling targets and achieving high recycling rates for some streams such as glass, paper/cardboard and metals. However, recycling rates remain low for plastic at 29 per cent, and the share of plastic packaging treated by incineration was 71 per cent in 2020.
The EPA data shows that Ireland will face significant challenges in meeting the 2025 and 2030 recycling targets for plastic of 50 per cent and 55 per cent.
The majority of Ireland’s recycling is done abroad, with just 18 per cent of packaging waste (204,000 tonnes) recycled in Ireland in 2020, mainly glass and wood.
Most plastic packaging waste was sent for incineration, with less than one third recycled. Diversion to energy recovery is happening due to poor segregation at businesses and homes and challenges finding financially viable markets for lightweight and low-quality plastics. If the current practices continue, Ireland will struggle to meet plastic recycling targets and the climate emissions associated from managing plastic waste will continue to grow.
Commenting on the figures, Sharon Finegan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability said:
“While Ireland is meeting current recycling targets, future targets will be more challenging, especially for plastic. Achieving the step change improvement needed in plastic recycling requires fiscal and regulatory measures to be introduced without delay. This could include enhanced recycling subsidies, a levy on incineration, introducing performance targets on waste operators, and the implementation of incentivised pricing to encourage Irish businesses and households to properly segregate their waste for recycling”.
Along with improving recycling rates, measures are needed to prevent packaging waste. Ireland’s generation of 1.1 million tonnes of packaging waste per year represents a poor use of materials and energy and is a growing source of emissions. Packaging waste can be avoided and reduced through better product design and by substituting single use for reusable packaging.
Warren Phelan, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme noted:
“With Ireland’s packaging waste exceeding 1.1 million tonnes per year, we need to intensify efforts to reduce packaging waste. Examples of reusable packaging already in use in Ireland include wooden pallets, kegs, and various plastic bulk containers, trays, boxes and buckets. While just 1 per cent of the packaging placed on the Irish market in 2020 was reusable (approximately 8,000 tonnes), this avoided about 72,000 tonnes of single use packaging.”
The report Packaging Waste in Ireland in 2020, is now available on the EPA website.
Contact: Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office, 053-9170770 (24 hours) or email@example.com.
Notes to Editor
The EPA compiles official statistics on waste generation and treatment in Ireland. These are used for reporting on Ireland’s performance in meeting its legal obligations, for policy and waste management planning purposes and to inform the general public. Data are compiled through surveys of waste operators and administrative data sources, in cooperation with other public authorities.
Circular economy: A circular economy is one where materials, including packaging, are recirculated and used again and again and waste is minimised. To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the European Commission adopted the EU’s first Circular Economy Action Plan in 2015. It updated pre-existing European waste legislation, tightened existing targets and introduced a range of new targets. The EU’s second Circular Economy Action Plan, adopted in 2020, focuses on accelerating the transition of Europe’s economy towards a more circular model. The Irish Government published a new national waste policy, A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, in September 2021.
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.
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 that function, or waste being prepared to fulfil 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 include 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 (e.g. composting).