Household Waste Statistics for Ireland

Household Waste Infographic thumb resize

EPA waste data release 16 September 2021. Latest reference year 2019.

Household waste includes residual waste, recyclable waste and organic waste collected directly from households and waste brought by householders to waste collection centres such as bring banks, civic amenity sites, pay to use compactors and landfills. 

Ireland generated approximately 1.622 million tonnes (t) of household waste in 2019; 1.573 million t of household waste was managed and an estimated 48,660 t was unmanaged.‌

This data release presents key statistics on the generation and management of Irish household waste in 2019.

Ireland's Household Waste Infographic 2019 highlights the key household waste facts, trends and what you can do to reduce household waste generation.

Key trends

  • 1.573 million t of household waste was managed in Ireland in 2019. This is a three per cent increase since 2018 (refer to the Figure 1 above). Managed waste is waste that is collected from households or brought to waste collection centres.
  • The EPA estimates that a further 48,660 t of household waste was unmanaged in 2019.  Unmanaged waste is waste that is not collected or brought to waste collection centres and is therefore likely to cause pollution in the environment because it is fly tipped or disposed of through backyard burning. 
  • The majority of household waste managed in Ireland in 2019 was collected at kerbside (66%), with smaller quantities collected via civic amenity sites, skips and bring banks.
  • The quantity of household waste managed in Ireland in 2019 equates to 320 kilogrammes per person, up from 314 kg/person in 2018 and 312 kg/person in 2017.6.  The latest data indicate that household waste generation in Ireland continues to be closely linked with disposable income, lifestyle and consumption patterns.
  • The quantity of household waste generated (i.e. managed & unmanaged) in Ireland in 2019 equates to 330 kilogrammes per person, up from 325 kg/person in 2018 and 321 kg/person in 2017.
  • Almost half (40%) of all waste collected from households was placed in the residual waste (black) bin in 2019 (635,000 t). Residual waste in Ireland is generally incinerated for energy recovery or landfilled.
  • Almost 244,000 t or 16% of household waste was collected in the recycling (green) bin in 2019.  Previous EPA waste characterisation studies have shown approximately a third of waste place in household recycling bins was not recyclable and belongs in the residual waste or organic bin.
  • Organic waste collected in the brown bin accounted for 10% of all household waste managed in 2019 (159,000 t), a slightly greater proportion than in 2018.  When properly segregated, this waste is either composted or undergoes anaerobic digestion to yield biogas and digestate for landspreading.  However, despite improved brown bin services and use, only 48% of Irish households had access to a brown bin in 2019 (up from 43% in 2018 and 41% in 2017). EPA studies have shown that most household organic waste (over 60%) continues to be placed in the residual or recycling bins and is therefore not recycled. 

 

Additional data

More data on the amount of waste collected from households or brought to waste collection centres within regions and local authority areas are presented in Figure 2 and Table 1 below.

Regional differences are evident in the quantity of household waste collected per person at kerbside by bin type in 2019 (see Figure 2 and Table 1). Variations are likely to be linked with differences in the waste collection services and infrastructure provided (e.g. prevalence of 2-bin vs. 3-bin systems in rural vs. urban areas), variations in the proportion of the population using authorised waste collectors (as shown in Figure 2), and behavioural factors such as bin sharing.

Bin waste collected from Irish households (per capita), 2019

 

  • Figure 2 Household Bin waste per capita and local authority area (excel table)

    Open in Excel: Fig.2 Household Bin Waste per capita & LA 2019 (excel table) (XLS 44KB)

Future focus

As discussed in Ireland's Waste Story, our focus for the future needs to be on achieving a circular economy and waste prevention so we can make the most of our resources while protecting the environment. The rising trend in household waste correlates closely with Central Statistics Office data on personal consumption of goods and services, both of which have shown an upward trend since 2012 (see Figure 3 below).  These data indicate that household waste generation in Ireland continues to be closely linked with lifestyle and consumption patterns. 

Reversing the upward trend in household waste generation will require the urgent implemention of policy measures contained in the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy designed to significantly cut down on packaging waste and food waste in particular.  Packaging waste makes up 29% of the waste in household residual and recycling bins collected at kerbside, and Ireland’s generation of packaging waste continues to rise. To tackle household waste generation, we need cut down on the amount of packaging placed on the market in the first place by innovating and moving to circular business models and ensure that any remaining packaging is designed either for reuse or is readily recyclable. We also need to do more to prevent food waste through initiatives such as Stop Food Waste. Human behaviour also plays a key role, as does the availability and accessibility of appropriate waste management options for householders. 

Household Waste & Good and Services consumption 2010-2019
  • Figure 3 Trend in Household Waste & Consumption of Goods & Services (excel table)

    Open in Excel: Fig. 3 Trend in household waste & consumption of goods & services (excel table) (XLS 20KB)

Improperly segregated household waste results in the cross-contamination of recyclables and inefficient waste management. Due to the nature of residual household waste, it is difficult to segregate recyclables once they are placed in the residual waste bin, meaning most of Ireland’s household waste continues to be incinerated or landfilled. The brown bin roll out to households has increased the composting rate of organic waste. However, still only approximately half of Irish households (48%) had access to a brown bin in 2019 (up from 43% in 2018 and 41% in 2017). The results is the majority of Ireland’s organic waste, including food waste, is not yet being recycled. New EU waste legislation means that the separate colletion of biowaste will be mandatory from the end of 2023.

More needs to be done to support Irish householders to use bins and waste collection centres correctly, to expand waste collection and recycling infrastructure and to prevent and minimise waste all along the supply chain. Early implementionn of the policy commitments in Ireland’s Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy will be instrumental in driving this change.

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1 The statistics on improperly segregated household waste were calculated by applying the results of the EPA 2018 Waste Characterisation Study to the tonnage of household waste managed in 2019.

  • Table 1. Household waste (collected and brought) in 2019

    Open in Excel: Household Table 1. Household waste collected and brought 2019 (XLS 29KB)