All homes to have brown bins in move to improve waste management

Government plans include levy for cigarette butt clean-up and pledge on fast fashion

All homes will be obliged to have brown bins for compostable material under Government proposals to be announced on Monday intended to radically improve Ireland’s management of waste.

The planned measures include levies on non-recyclable plastics such as food packaging in supermarkets, and a levy on tobacco companies to cover the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts.

In a consultation document, Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton is also pledging to "tackle fast fashion" .

On domestic waste, the consultation document states: “The provision of an organic waste [brown] bin will be mandatory as part of a waste collection service for all households.”


This will include, for the first time, apartment complexes served by management companies. Expanding items allowed in the green bin is also proposed.

The plan is in response to too much food waste being disposed of in the wrong bin – 50 per cent of organic material is being put in bins intended for mixed dry recycling and general waste.

The contamination problem is also indicated by the amount of textiles being put into bins. A 2018 survey showed 80,000 tonnes of textiles were contained in Irish household bins, comprising 10 per cent of general waste or black bin contents; 3 per cent of mixed recycling/green bin contents and 9 per cent of organic/brown bin contents.

Illegal dumping

Measures “to further crack down” on illegal dumping are also planned, while Mr Bruton will announce a major study of crime in the waste sector.

New incentives to promote the use of recycled materials in the construction industry are envisaged, while waste management and sustainability will assume a greater part of the school curriculum.

A total of 75 new measures are contained in the revised waste strategy, which is open for public consultation until February 21st, after which they will be finalised and brought into force.

More than 200kg of waste packaging, 59kg of which is plastic, is generated per person every year in Ireland – significantly above the EU average.

More than half of “fast fashion” in Ireland – cheap, trendy clothing, taking ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turning them into garments in high-street stores at speed – is disposed of in less than a year.

Meanwhile, food waste costs homeowners €700 a year on average, while accounting for a €1 billion loss in businesses.

The revised strategy is in response to high levels of carbon emissions associated with sectors generating unnecessary high volumes of waste, and much more demanding EU legislation on reducing waste, recycling and reuse in the offing – especially in curbing difficult to recycle plastics.

Mr Bruton said in such circumstances there was a need to “radically change our wasteful use of precious resources which damages our climate, our environment and our future”.

“We need to act now . . . We have identified 75 measures which can be quickly implemented. These include enforcing existing rules, encouraging audits and [the adoption of] waste reduction targets, higher fees for difficult to recycle packaging and bringing commercial vehicle tyres into the successful tyre recycling scheme.”

A new advisory group made up of environmental NGOs, industry and regulatory agencies will assist in putting in place the new policy. It will meet in January.

A major focus in the latest attempt to overhaul the waste sector will be on poor practices in business, where 70 per cent of material dumped could be recycled, though many measures will be targeted at households “where ambitious new targets are being set”, Mr Burton said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times