Ireland is off track to meet mandatory EU recycling targets set to apply from 2025 for municipal waste, packaging waste and plastic packaging waste, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Recycling rates are “not keeping pace with increasing levels of waste generation” and Ireland remains “overly reliant on unpredictable export markets”, with almost 382,000 tonnes of residual waste sent for incineration abroad, the report said.
The report, released on Monday night, shows that construction and demolition waste increased by 10 per cent to 9 million tonnes and packaging waste is up by 9 per cent to 1.2 million tonnes.
The data in the report is for the year of 2021.
Municipal waste generation during that year remained static at 3.17 million tonnes, the report showed, while municipal waste recycling rates remained unchanged at 41 per cent, and packaging recycling fell by 4 per cent to 58 per cent.
Just under 28 per cent of plastic packaging generated in Ireland was recycled in 2021, with the remainder being treated by incineration (70 per cent) and disposal (2 per cent).
Ireland is off track to meet mandatory EU recycling targets set to apply from 2025 for municipal waste, packaging waste and plastic packaging waste, the EPA said.
David Flynn, director of the EPA’s office of environmental sustainability, said: “We continue to throw away far too much, wasting valuable materials. We live on a resource-finite planet and resource extraction causes greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and water stress”.
“To reduce these impacts, we must accelerate our transition from a linear economy to a circular, more resource-efficient economy. Right now, we need to focus on avoiding waste. That means reusing construction waste materials where possible, becoming better at segregating our municipal waste and vastly improving the recycling of packaging materials,” he said.
Ireland remained heavily reliant on export for the treatment of several key waste streams in 2021, the report said.
38 per cent of municipal waste was exported for treatment in 2021, including 382,000 tonnes of residual waste exported for energy recovery through incineration.
69 per cent of packaging waste was exported for treatment.
Commenting on the findings from the report, Warren Phelan, programme manager of the EPA’s circular economy programme said Ireland’s reliance on the export of waste for treatment made it “vulnerable to shocks and changes in international markets”.
“We do not have enough facilities for the treatment of non-hazardous and hazardous waste which are missed opportunities to capture the energy and economic value of these wastes.”
To address this, the EPA said Ireland needs to improve waste prevention, roll-out a brown bin service for organic waste to all customers and improve waste segregation by businesses and householders putting their waste into the correct bins.