Decrease in municipal waste generation reflects fall in GDP

Date released: Nov 26 2009

Ireland is well advanced in achieving most of the EU waste recovery and recycling targets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Waste Report 2008, released today during the first ever European Week for Waste Reduction.  However, the report urges continued effort to divert biodegradable waste from landfill, and to prevent waste arisings from all sectors of society.
In 2008, municipal waste generation in Ireland fell by 5%, in line with GDP. The amount of biodegradable waste collected at kerbside from households doubled, and was primarily collected by local authorities. Significant efforts throughout 2008 increased the source separated household waste collection in Ireland and the report found that:

  • 95% of households with a waste collection service have a minimum of a two-bin service (residual “black bin” and dry recyclables “green bin”);
  • 21% of households with a collection service have a three-bin service (residual “black bin”, dry recyclables “green bin” and organics “brown bin”). 

Commenting on the report’s findings, Dr. Gerry Byrne, EPA Programme Manager, said:

“While the reductions in waste generation seen in 2008 are welcome, we must continue to focus on resource efficiency to ensure that when economic growth does return, it is not accompanied by a surge in waste generation.”

The EPA report states that for 2008:

  • The generation of municipal waste decreased by 5%, reflecting a reported drop in GDP for the same period and despite a rise in population.
  • The quantity of biodegradable waste sent to landfill decreased by 19%.  Despite this significant drop, Ireland is still 280,000 tonnes above the first EU Landfill Directive limit effective from July 2010.  Limits for 2013 and 2016 will be even more stringent – the 2016 limit will require the diversion of 800,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste from landfill. 
  • The recovery of municipal waste increased by 1% to an overall recovery rate of 37.5%.  The disposal of municipal waste to landfill decreased by in excess of 76,000 tonnes, a landfill rate of 62.5%.
  • There was a 24% decrease in the reported quantity of construction and demolition waste managed, as compared to 2007.
  • The private sector collected 57% of waste reported as collected from households, with the remainder collected by local authorities.

Dr. Gerry Byrne said:

“Although significant progress has been made in managing municipal waste in Ireland, the report clearly shows that Ireland is still in danger of missing a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill. In particular, we point out that there is a need to divert large quantities of food waste from landfill. Urgent and sustained actions are required if we are to meet the EU target, including the further roll-out of source separate collections, and recovery of organic waste.”

In summer 2009, the EPA published guidance on municipal waste pre-treatment.  At the same time the EPA began reviewing the municipal waste landfill licences in Ireland to include appropriate pre-treatment licence conditions. This licence review process is expected to be substantially completed by the end of 2009, and will assist in Ireland’s compliance with the Landfill Directive by restricting the amount of biodegradable municipal waste allowed to be landfilled.

Further priority actions for biodegradable municipal waste management in Ireland are recommended in the report.  They include the need to:

  • Formulate and implement regulations/bye-laws that can be used to enforce the segregation and separate collection of food waste at household and commercial premises
  • Put in place services for the separate collection of organic (particularly food) waste at households and commercial premises.
  • Ensure there is adequate infrastructure to treat the very large quantities of organic (particularly food) waste that must be collected separately and diverted from landfill.
  • Develop sustainable outlets for the products of such treatment. To this end successful implementation of the Government sponsored Market Development Programme should provide valuable support mechanisms for the national recyclates industry.
  • Promote food waste prevention through the National Waste Prevention Programme initiatives such as: the Food Waste Prevention and Home Composting projects, Green Business, Green Healthcare and Green Hospitality Awards.

Dr. Jonathan Derham, Senior Inspector, EPA commented:

“The EPA’s National Waste Prevention Programme focuses on breaking the link between economic growth and waste. Through the Programme we are developing waste prevention and resource efficiency capacity in the areas of waste, water and energy.  Such actions can assist everyone, households and businesses alike, to improve resource efficiency and significantly cut costs.”

Finally, the report recommends that relevant new waste policy on foot of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government-funded International Review of Waste Management Policy in Ireland should be delivered as quickly as possible. This should assist in providing certainty within the waste industry in Ireland and allow for accelerated investment programmes that are necessary if organic waste is to be treated and landfill avoided.
The National Waste Report 2008  is available on the EPA website.


Further information: EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours)
Notes to Editor:

Overall recycling rates in 2008:

  • Household waste recovery rates remained static at 26% of household waste managed. While satisfactory, there remains considerable distance to reduce the landfilling of household waste to the national target of 50% by 2013.
  • Recovery of municipal waste increased by 1% to yield an overall rate of 37.5%.
  • On average, every resident in Ireland generated 729 kg of municipal waste.
  • Packaging waste recovery rate increased by 1% to 65%, and exceeds the EU recovery target of 60% required by 2011.
  • The collection of 9 kg of household waste electrical and electronic equipment per capita was more than double the EU target of 4 kg per capita per year.
  • The UK remains the principal initial destination for Irish waste exported for recovery.

Industrial waste generation is reported in the National Waste Report 2008. (Industry is surveyed every two years in accordance with the reporting schedule for the EU Waste Statistics Regulation).

National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP):

The NWPP commenced in 2004 at the request of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The EPA leads and co-ordinates the Programme.

A sample of NWPP projects:

  • Green Business Initiative (, provides a suite of services to business and organisations to assess waste generation (and water and energy consumption), access a free on-site advisory visit and assist in the making of cost-saving plans.
  • Green Hospitality Awards (, an awards-based incremental environmental improvement programme for hotels and hospitality sector. The programme has already generated in excess of €3 million in saving for 190 participating hotels, and over 80 hotels have gained awards.
  • Local Authority Prevention Demonstration Programme and Network (, a grant-aid programme to assist local authorities to employ prevention officers to work with local businesses and communities on resource efficiency and cost-saving programmes.
  • Green Home Programme (, operated by An Taisce, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, to educate householders and communities on environmental sustainability and to track their progress towards more sustainable living.
  • Packaging Prevention Programme (, operated by Repak, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, to work with Repak members to reduce the use of packaging and the consequent generation of packaging waste.
  • Food Waste Prevention ( and Home Composting projects, commenced in 2009, are developing new prevention resources for local authorities to help people save money by avoiding food waste and promoting home composting.