The quantity of waste generated, the type of waste, and how and where it is treated all cause environmental pressures, affecting where we live and work and our recreational spaces. Ireland’s waste management practices, infrastructure and regulation have matured significantly over the last 20 years. We are at a pivotal point in Ireland’s waste policy, legislation and planning.

Current trends in waste

Waste baled plastics

Ireland generated approximately 14 million (M) tonnes of waste in 2018, corresponding to 2.9 tonnes per person.

The makeup of Ireland’s municipal waste has changed considerably over the last ten years. Plastics now makeup one-fifth of the waste in household recycling and residual waste bins.

More residual waste is now used as a fuel (energy recovery) than disposed to landfill in Ireland. In 2020, Ireland had three landfills accepting municipal waste for disposal in Ireland and two municipal waste incinerators accepting municipal waste for energy recovery while three cement kilns are authorised to accept solid recovered fuel (SRF) for co-incineration as an alternative to fossil fuels.

Ireland is still heavily reliant on export markets, particularly for the treatment of recyclable and hazardous wastes.

The latest EPA data highlight that urgent action is needed to:
• to reverse the rise in waste generation;
• significantly improve recycling rates; and
• increase Ireland’s self-sufficiency in treating our waste.

Learn more about Ireland's latest national waste statistics

Learn more about waste

Causes of waste generation

Waste kerbside bins

Ireland has not yet succeeded in breaking the link between economic growth, consumption levels and waste generation. Trends in waste generation correlate closely with with Central Statistics Office data, which show a fall during the economic recession and a marked increase since 2012 with the recovering economy.

Population growth is likely to drive further waste generation. Ireland’s population is forecast to be up to 6.7 million by 2051, which will put further demands on waste infrastructure.

To help improve Ireland’s recycling performance, we need improvements in segregation behaviour by householders and businesses, and a broadening of the scope of what can be recycled by Irish homes and businesses.

Learn more about causes of Ireland's waste


What's being done

Image of food waste

European Union (EU) legislation, the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Green Deal and UN Sustainable Development Goals are the primary drivers of change in relation to waste management policy in Ireland.

We are at a pivotal point in Ireland’s waste policy, legislation and planning. Ireland’s national waste policy was reviewed in 2020 to strengthen the focus on the circular economy and a new action plan was published in September 2020. This provides opportunity for change.

The ambition for Ireland is a circular economy.  A circular economy can provide positive society-wide benefits in which waste is prevented, consumption of single-use items is reduced, reuse and repair initiatives are incentivised, recycling is maximised, and residual waste that cannot be recycled is used as an energy source to replace fossil fuels.

Learn more about what's being done about waste in Ireland



Image waste paints

To further deliver the necessary waste prevention and circular economy ambitions will be a challenge. The latest waste statistics indicate that waste generation is increasing in many waste streams and that Ireland has not yet succeeded in breaking the link between economic growth, consumption levels and waste generation.

Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020-2025, A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, sets out a roadmap that aims to ensure that Ireland not only meets legal targets but also takes full advantage of the opportunities of the new economy. The full and early implementation of these policy measures will be needed to address the challenges involved. 

Through implementing waste prevention and circular economy approaches, we have the potential to positively impact not only our terrestrial and marine environments but also our health and wellbeing.

Learn more about the outlook for waste in Ireland


Waste indicators