Good progress made towards national and EU waste recycling targets

Date released: Jan 09 2006

Good progress continues to be made towards national and EU waste recycling targets.  This is according to the National Waste Report 2004 published today by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Municipal waste (commercial and household): The recycling rate of municipal waste increased by 23 per cent to 893,000 tonnes in 2004.

Commenting, Dr Gerry Byrne, EPA Programme Manager said, “Having reached a municipal waste recycling rate of 33 per cent in 2004, Ireland’s national target of 35 per cent recycling is likely to be achieved well ahead of the target date of 2013.  The remarkable growth rates in waste recycling year-on-year show that national policy, legislative measures and awareness campaigns are working. Initiatives have included  

restrictions on the landfilling of packaging waste and a related obligation to have packaging recycled; the widespread introduction of kerbside recycling schemes for householders; and local and national awareness campaigns such as Race Against Waste.”

Packaging waste: Trends in the recovery of packaging waste are also positive. A recovery rate of 56 per cent was recorded for 2004.  This means that the EU target of 50 per cent packaging waste recovery by 2005 has been exceeded one year ahead of schedule.

“The momentum for packaging waste recycling is now well established and will be maintained by the combined efforts of the general public, Repak, the recycling industry and enforcement bodies. The new focus will be on preventing and reducing packaging waste generation”, said Gerry Byrne.

Bring banks and civic amenity sites: The number of bring banks for the collection of recyclable waste has increased to 1,929 and civic amenity facilities to 69, an increase of approximately 15 per cent in the number of facilities in each case since 2003.

Export of municipal waste for recycling: Concurrent with increased recycling is a high level of export of waste for recycling. In 2004, 74 per cent of Irish municipal waste recycling took place abroad, little changed since 2003.  The government-led Market Development Group is working on exploiting and creating markets and outlets for recycled materials in Ireland.

Landfilling of municipal waste: The landfilling of municipal waste decreased for the third consecutive year, by 1 per cent.  In 2004, 67 per cent of municipal waste was landfilled. Some 34 landfills accepted municipal waste in 2004 (compared to 35 in 2003 – two landfills closed (Marlinstown, Westmeath and Raffeen, Cork) and one opened (Knockharley, Meath)). It is projected that, nationally, there remains 8 years’ landfill capacity; though there is considerable variation between regions.

Growth of municipal waste generation: The generation of municipal waste continues to grow, by 4 per cent in 2004. However, the rate of growth is lower than in 2003. The report highlights that 23 per cent of Irish households have either no access to, or choose not to avail of, collection services.  This results in an estimated 227,374 tonnes of “uncollected” household waste. 

Dr Gerry Byrne said that, “We would urge local authorities to establish what is happening to this uncollected waste and to ensure that practices such as fly tipping and backyard burning are eliminated.”

Biodegradable municipal waste: Progress in diverting biodegradable municipal waste (such as food, garden waste, wood, paper, cardboard and textiles) from landfill has been relatively slow, particularly with regard to food and garden waste. A concentrated effort at national and regional level will be required in the short to medium term if EU diversion-from-landfill targets for biodegradable municipal waste are to be met.

Construction and demolition waste: The generation of construction and demolition waste has increased to over 11 million tonnes. A recycling rate of 85 per cent was reported by the waste management industry – the data needs to be verified however, and the EPA will carry out detailed research in 2006 to corroborate this provisional finding.

Dr Gerry Byrne said “We would recommend that the construction and demolition industry itself, as the largest single non-agricultural source of waste in the State, takes responsibility at the site level for monitoring and recording waste generation and management. This will enable individual contractors to plan more effectively for waste prevention and recycling.”

Industrial waste and hazardous waste generation: Industrial waste and hazardous waste generation has increased since 2001, by 7% and 14% respectively.  The larger generators of these wastes are, for the most part, regulated by the EPA.  The hazardous waste management industry, which handles 73 per cent of Irish hazardous waste, is highly regulated by international, EU and national legislation.  The National Hazardous Waste Management Plan will be reviewed in 2006.

The report, entitled National Waste Report 2004, is available from the EPA website at


Further information:

Some of the responses at national and local level to waste management issues are highlighted in the report. A range of initiatives are in place to bring about the prevention of waste and the improved management of waste generally. Some examples include:

  • Race Against Waste – raising awareness and promoting good waste management practices (Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government);
  • National Waste Prevention Programme - co-ordinating and directing efforts to reduce the generation of waste (EPA);
  • Cleaner Greener Production Programme – funding and co-ordinating research into the drivers and technologies for improved waste management (EPA);
  • Environmentally Superior Products programme - promoting the development of products that have a reduced environmental impact (Enterprise Ireland);
  • Producer responsibility for packaging - delivering on packaging recycling targets (Repak);
  • Producer responsibility for electrical and electronic equipment – to deliver on waste electrical and electronic equipment collection and recycling targets