What are plastics?

Plastic has many valuable properties; it is light, hygienic, insulates well, is low cost and durable. Plastic packaging can prevent food waste by preserving food. On the negative side, plastic takes centuries to break down and if not managed properly it pollutes marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Plastic is mainly produced from fossil fuels, a finite resource and its production is responsible for the production of greenhouse gas emissions.

How much plastic do we waste in Ireland?

In Ireland in 2019:

28% of plastic waste was recycled. Nearly 320,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste was managed.

Preventing plastic waste being created in the first place is the most important way to tackle the plastic pollution problem. Preventing plastic waste can happen at many stages in the lifecycle of a product such as in the design, production, distribution, consumption and use. Consumers can prevent plastic waste by choosing not to purchase single use plastic products such as beverage bottles, balloons and wipes or products over-packaged in plastic packaging.

What is the EPA doing about plastic waste?

Plastics is a priority area for the Circular Economy Programme, linked to its importance in circular economy policy and legislation. The types of activities that we deliver to prevent plastic waste and to drive circular economy activities include:

  • Running national surveys to gauge attitudes, behaviours and preferences of Ireland’s consumers to plastics (completed surveys have shown strong public interest in curbing plastic waste).
  • Creating innovation & demonstration opportunities, with Green Enterprise funding calls having plastics as a thematic. Funded projects include demonstration of deposit return systems in food retail and creating new products from recycled plastic. EPA Research funded a plastic project called BioPost. BioPost aims to develop sustainable environmentally friendly plastics to address the real-world problems of current plastics.
  • A campus “living lab” sustainability project in partnership with the Irish Universities Association to prevent plastic waste and increase recycling of plastic waste.
  • Through the Local Authority Prevention Network, funding local authorities to deliver local/community initiatives to prevent plastic waste, such as installation of public drinking water fonts and greening festivals/events to reduce the use of single use plastic products.