Recycling creates opportunities to capture value from waste and move to a circular economy

Date released: Oct 26 2017


Recycling creates opportunities to capture value from waste and move to a circular economy

While Ireland has made progress in improving recycling and recovery levels, further progress is needed to protect the environment, meet incoming EU regulations and facilitate the move to a circular economy in Ireland.

  • 68% of waste packaging generated in 2015 was recycled. This exceeds the current EU target (55%) but the proposed EU target - to recycle 75% waste packaging by 2030 - will be a challenge.
  • Ireland surpassed EU targets for collection and recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment in 2015 but more ambitious targets come into force from 2016 onwards.
  • Despite an upward trend in the recovery and recycling of end-of-life vehicles in recent years, Ireland failed to meet the higher targets that came into force in January 2015.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published 2015 information about Ireland’s progress in improving recovery levels of waste. The figures show that while Ireland has made progress, it will need to improve a lot more if it is to meet the need for even higher levels of recycling and recovery, taking these materials out of the waste steam and supporting the establishment of a circular economy in Ireland.
Ireland is still wasting a significant amount of valuable material that could be reused and recovered. EPA figures suggest a need for a much greater focus on the promotion of a circular economy where the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. This approach saves the economy money and reduces pressure on the environment.

Dr Eimear Cotter, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability said,

“The information published today shows that Ireland has made progress in improving recycling and recovery levels in the areas of waste packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment and end-of-life vehicles. This is an important step in a move to circular economy and will support extracting more value from our waste. At the same time, we need to decouple personal consumption from economic growth by maintaining a sharp focus on waste prevention and re-use across all waste streams.”

The three waste streams reported on by the EPA today are waste packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and end-of-life vehicles. All three are subject to producer responsibility legislation. The idea behind producer responsibility initiatives is that those who manufacture or place the products on the market are responsible for funding the collection and treatment of their products when they become waste, in line with the Polluter Pays principle.

Management of waste packaging has met all EU waste packaging recovery and recycling targets to date. However, the amount of waste packaging generated is increasing and the amount being recycled has plateaued. Meeting the proposed EU target to recycle 75 per cent of packaging waste by 2030 will be a challenge.

Ireland has, so far, met all EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recovery and recycling targets. However, new ambitious collection targets have come into effect from 2016.  EPA figures show that in 2015, 8.6 kg of household WEEE was collected per person. The EU target for 2015 was 4 kg per person.

New, higher targets for the recovery and recycling of end-of-life vehicles came into force from January 2015. The targets require 95 per cent reuse and recovery and 85 per cent reuse and recycling of end-of-life vehicles. Ireland failed to meet the targets in 2015, achieving 92 per cent reuse and recovery and 83 per cent reuse and recycling.

Fiona McCoole, Office of Environmental Sustainability added,

“October is National Reuse Month. We’re asking people to think about whether you can reuse, donate or repair everyday objects rather than discard them as waste. If waste can’t be prevented, be careful to separate your waste and present it for collection in the correct bin. Dry recyclables should be presented uncontaminated to maximise their potential for recycling.”

The EPA says that at a policy level there must be a continuing emphasis on a shift to the Circular Economy, whether that is waste prevention, increased recycling of waste as well as encouraging companies to make packaging and electronic goods more durable and recyclable at their end-of-life. At an individual level, the public can help by paying greater attention to what they put in their bins, recycle where possible and avoid using disposable items and unnecessary packaging.

These data releases are now available on the EPA website where you can also view details of Ireland’s progress towards EU waste recycling, recovery and diversion targets.  

Notes to Editor:

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 fulfill 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).

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.

Circular economy: In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimised, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value. To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the European Commission put forward a Circular Economy Package in December 2015, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Action Plan.

National Reuse Month: October 2017 is National Reuse Month, an initiative led by the three Waste Management Planning Offices to co-ordinate a series of nationwide events raising awareness about the economic and environmental benefits of reusing everyday items and materials that would otherwise go to waste. See Eastern Midlands Waste Region www.emwr.ie, Southern Waste Region www.southernwasteregion.ie and Connacht-Ulster Waste Region www.curwmo.ie.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office, 053 9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie