Waste generation

EPA Circular Economy and Waste Statistics data release June 2023. Data reference year 2021.


Waste generation refers to the total tonnage of waste that is disposed of and enters the waste management system in Ireland each year. In 2021, 17.6 million tonnes of waste was generated in Ireland (figure 1).

Image showing the total tonnes of waste generated in Ireland in 2021 by material type

Figure 1: In 2021 Ireland generated 17.6 million tonnes of waste


In 2021, the EPA developed a new approach to calculating total waste generation by individual material type. This gives an annual total figure for waste generation along with a disaggregated view of what materials are present in the different reporting streams. In a circular economy, the aim is to minimise the consumption of new and virgin materials and increase reuse and the use of secondary or recycled materials. Providing detailed information on the types and quantities of materials that make up our waste stream will help inform the development of recycling capacity and circular solutions to reducing overall waste generation. 

The calculation of total waste generation measures waste as it is collected and takes account of overlaps across reporting streams to avoid double counting. This waste is then either treated in Ireland or exported for treatment abroad.  Waste generation is reported according to the waste categories in the EU’s waste statistics Regulation 2150/2002. These categories provide detail on the material types that make up our waste. 

The waste data is categorised using the European Waste Code (EWC) system (table 1) and allows us to present data on quantities and trends in individual material types and is in addition to the data we provide on waste sources through our statutory reporting e.g. municipal, hazardous, C&D waste, etc.   

Our new data on waste generation shows that Mineral Wastes are the largest waste material type found in our waste system and account for just under 12 million tonnes or 66% of all waste generated. It includes:  

  • Soil waste - 7.6 million tonnes  
  • Naturally occurring minerals (e.g. waste gravel, crushed rock, sand and clays) - 3.25 million tonnes  
  • Concrete blocks and gypsum waste - 600,000 tonnes  
  • Slag and ash from thermal treatment - 135,000 tonnes.  

Non-metallic wastes accounts for 2.3 million tonnes or 13% of all waste generated and includes many common materials such as:  

  • Paper and cardboard wastes - 814,000 tonnes  
  • Plastic wastes – 542,000 tonnes  
  • Wood wastes - 448,500 tonnes; and  
  • Textile wastes - 238,000 tonnes  
  • Animal and vegetal wastes, mainly derived from food preparation activities, account for 1.1 million tonnes or 6% of all waste.   

Mixed wastes which include sorting residues, street sweepings and other undifferentiated wastes, accounts for 700,000 tonnes.  

Metallic wastes which includes aluminium, copper, lead and other metal wastes account for 600,000 tonnes of waste generated.  

EWC Material Category Tonnes
01 Chemical compound wastes 97,988
02 Chemical preparation wastes 76,994
03 Other chemical wastes 156,156
05 Health care and biological wastes 22,836
06 Metallic wastes 550,842
07 Non-metallic wastes 2,296,963
08 Discarded equipment 194,853
09 Animal and vegetal wastes 1,111,868
10 Mixed wastes 733,824
11 common sludges 415,298
12 Mineral wastes 11,939,624
13 Solidified, stabilised or vitrified waste -
Grand Total 17,597,245

Table 1. Waste generation per EWC material category in 2021


Ireland's circular economy action plan commits us to improving from third last in Europe to mid table by 2030 in terms of our used of secondary materials.  This data provides, for the first time, information on the types and quantities of materials in the waste stream that are available to help us build our circular economy.