Rate of package recycling slips, environmental agency says

EPA calls for greater efforts amid continuing decrease in rate of recycling

Ireland's packaging recycling rates are going in the wrong direction, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.

Recycling rates for packaging declined from 74 per cent in 2012 to 64 per cent in 2018, according to the EPA’s latest figures. Packaging now accounts for one-third of household waste with paper and cardboard, followed by plastic.

Ireland recycled only a third of plastic packaging in 2018, which has decreased for the third year in a row. The EPA said the amount of packaging used must be reduced as well as an improvement in the separation of waste by Irish households and businesses.

It also said the broaden of scope of Ireland’s recycling list must be expanded.


Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Sustainability, said "to get the most from our resources in this area, we need to reduce packaging and reverse our falling recycling rates".

"Households and businesses can drive this change by avoiding over-packaged goods which sends a strong signal back to producers to innovate for reduced packaging and reusable alternatives," Dr Cotter said.

“We must also maximise recycling of the remaining materials, and waste collectors have a critical role here in ensuring their customers segregate correctly and use the appropriate bin. To support this, Ireland’s recycling list should, as a matter of urgency, be reviewed to expand the variety of waste types that can be recycled.”

Dr Tara Higgins, EPA senior scientist, said the quantity of packaging waste generated needs to be reduced to bring about environmental and climate benefits.

“The Government’s forthcoming Waste and Circular Economy Action Plan provides an opportunity to set out concrete actions that will address the worrying trends highlighted in these figures and help Ireland meet challenging new EU targets in the coming years,” she said.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times