Tough for Ireland to meet new EU recycling targets – EPA

Promoting a circular economy: Ireland still wasting valuable materials that can be reused

Stacks of empty plastic bottles, which can be employed for inventive, useful structures such as greenhouses. File photograph: Getty Images

Stacks of empty plastic bottles, which can be employed for inventive, useful structures such as greenhouses. File photograph: Getty Images

 

Ireland has undergone a transformation in recycling and recovery of waste, but it will find it challenging to meet the new EU targets for 2030, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned.

The agency today published 2015 figures which confirm Ireland’s progress, but show the increased EU targets for the years ahead.

The EPA said 68 per cent of waste packaging generated in 2015 was recycled, which exceeds the current EU target (55 per cent). However, a proposed EU target to recycle 75 per cent of waste packaging by 2030 “will be a challenge”.

It also showed that while Ireland surpassed EU targets for collection and recovery of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2015, more ambitious targets came into force from 2016 onwards.

However, in spite of an upward trend in the recovery and recycling of end-of-life vehicles in recent years, Ireland failed to meet the higher targets that came into force in January 2015.

Circular economy

“While Ireland has made progress, it will need to improve a lot more if it is to meet the need for even higher levels of recycling and recovery, taking these materials out of the waste stream and supporting the establishment of a circular economy in Ireland,” the EPA said.

Europe has set the new, more demanding targets to support an economy “where the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible; waste and resource use are minimised, and resources are kept within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, to be used again and again to create further value”.

Ireland is still wasting a significant amount of valuable material that could be reused, the EPA said. The promotion of a circular economy saves money and reduces pressure on the environment.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA Office of Environmental Sustainability, underlined progress in improving recycling and recovery which was “an important step in a move to circular economy and will support extracting more value from our waste”.

But there was a need to “decouple personal consumption from economic growth” by maintaining a sharp focus on waste prevention and re-use across all waste streams, she added.

All EU waste packaging recovery and recycling targets had been met, but the amount of waste packaging generated was increasing and the amount being recycled had plateaued.

The EPA figures show that in 2015, 8.6kg of household WEEE was collected per person, where the EU target for 2015 was 4kg per person. However, new ambitious collection targets have come into effect from 2016.

Failed targets

The higher targets on end-of-life vehicles require 95 per cent reuse and recovery and 85 per cent reuse and recycling. Ireland failed to meet the targets in 2015, achieving 92 per cent reuse and recovery and 83 per cent reuse and recycling.

“October is National Reuse Month. We’re asking people to think about whether you can reuse, donate or repair everyday objects rather than discard them as waste,” said Fiona McCoole of the EPA Office of Environmental Sustainability.

At a policy level, the EPA was encouraging companies to make electronic goods more durable and packaging more recyclable.

“At an individual level, the public can help by paying greater attention to what they put in their bins, recycle where possible and avoid using disposable items and unnecessary packaging,” she added.