Team Green: why Repak wants us to recycle one more piece of plastic per week
Ireland is winning on EU recycling targets but they're about to get significantly harder, says Séamus Clancy of Repak. Here's how to increase your effort
Soft plastics should go into the general waste bin as they are not currently accepted in the recycling bin. Photograph: iStock
Here in Ireland we currently recycle 33 per cent of all plastics, ahead of our target of 22.5 per cent. The new plastic recycling targets of 50 per cent by 2025 and 55 per cent by 2030 are ambitious, and Repak is working with all stakeholders – including policy makers, producers, recovery operators and consumers – to help Ireland achieve these targets with the development of a plastic recycling strategy.
Séamus Clancy, chief executive officer of Repak, says we have to double what we’re recycling today in order to hit future European targets.
“The whole idea with Team Green is to raise public awareness of the contribution every household in Ireland can make. That’s why we have ambassadors like Paul McGrath, Roz Purcell, the O'Donovan brothers, Anna Geary and Bobby Kerr who inspire people and show what can be done. These ambassadors are encouraging us to look after our planet and make sure our kids can have something special to look forward to.
Find out more about Repak's recycling campaign here.
"We are asking people to recycle just one more piece of plastic per week, that will add up to 250 million pieces a year, which will help us increase our recycling rate by two per cent per year. We are asking every individual, business and education institution across Ireland to sign up to Team Green. Like planting acorns, it will grow into something significant,” he says.
To help get people started, Repak has answered some frequently asked questions around recycling plastics.
What can go in to the recycling bin in terms of plastics?
Plastic tubs and trays, yogurt pots, plastic bottles such as beverages, soap dispensers, shampoo bottles, butter and ice cream tubs. All rigid trays can be placed in the household recycling bin. Soft plastics, for example cling film, should go into the general waste bin as they are not currently accepted in the recycling bin.
What should I never put in my recycling bin and why?
Food waste, soft plastic, glass, nappies, and garden waste are some of the worst recycling contaminants. Contamination in the recycling bin can be as high as 36 per cent in some areas in Ireland. Over the last 22 years, Ireland has gone from being one of Europe’s lowest performers to the highest for packaging recycling.
Despite this, tonnes of non-recyclable material ends up in the recyclable bin every year. Recycling bin contamination negatively impacts on the quality of recyclables placed in waste collection systems and is a result of putting non-recyclable waste such as nappies and garden waste in the recycling bin, as well as dirty and unwashed recyclables. Thornton’s Recycling has estimated that recycling waste operators nationwide take in 1 million nappies every year from the recycling bin waste.
Why is it important to only put recyclables into this bin?
The staggering fact that co-mingled recyclable collections contain an average of 25 per cent of non-recyclable materials shows that proper separation of recyclables in the home will lead to a significant reduction in contamination, and result in higher recycling rates and quality materials, which will be more marketable for use in recycled products in Ireland or abroad.
What condition does the packaging/plastic need to be in?
Recyclables should be placed in the recycling bin clean, dry and loose. There should be no food or liquids left in your recycling. They should not be put into different plastic bags, as these can get tangled in machinery at the recycling plant.
Why is it important that we keep recycling?
On January 16th, 2018, the European Commission published a European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy requiring all member states to reuse and recycle 50 per cent of all plastic packaging waste by 2025, and 55 per cent by 2030. To achieve these new recycling targets, waste plastic packaging recycling in Ireland will have to increase to circa 175,824 tonnes by 2030. In order to achieve targets, plastic packaging will need to be extracted from waste sent to landfill and energy recovery. While producers will do their part on improving recyclability of packaging, and incorporating recycled content into products, Repak’s Team Green calls on the Irish public to recycle just one more piece of plastic, at the very least, per week. In doing so we would recycle 250 million more items of plastic.
Handy tips to make it easy to recycle more?
- Ensure you rinse any food or liquid residues from containers.
- Make sure you know what can and can’t be recycled.
- Know your recycling day so you don’t become tempted to dump recyclable waste with other rubbish.
- Flatten and crush/open up boxes to make best use of space.
- Do not put mixed recyclables into a box or bag and then into recycling bins.
- Do not put food waste or other compostable materials (such as garden waste) in recycling bins.
- No electrical items, glass, clothes, old shoes, used batteries should go into the green bin.
- Recycle more items from the bathroom.
Where does the plastic go after it leaves our bins?
Your recycling bin is collected and it is brought to one of the many recycling facilities around the country where it is sorted out both by staff and machinery. The materials are sorted into groups of plastic, paper, aluminium, steel and cardboard. The materials are baled, and then redistributed to specialist companies who reuse these materials to create new products.
Any tips on how to reduce plastics overall?
The amount of packaging waste being generated is 210kg per head of capital, and that needs to reduce to a maximum of 180kg per head of capita, the average in Europe, to sustain our good recycling performance. Reducing our plastic consumption is the first step, and there are many ways we can do this as individuals.
- Invest in a lunchbox and use recyclable alternatives, such as paper, to keep food fresh rather than soft plastics such as clingfilm and sandwich ziplocked bags.
- Buy a reusable travel mug to bring to Ireland’s tea and coffee shops rather than consuming a disposable coffee cup. Many Repak members, including Insomnia, Starbucks and Butler’s Chocolate Cafe encourage shoppers to use their own travel mugs in exchange for a discount.
- Ditch the plastic straws: both paper and steel alternatives are widely available and if they are not, consider whether you need to use a straw. Always specify if you don’t want a straw when ordering a drink.
- Shop with a tote bag: keep a folded tote bag in your handbag or pocket to make sure you never need to buy a plastic bag.
- Refuse plastic cutlery if not needed: if you are offered plastic cutlery when purchasing food, make sure to say no unless you need it.
Find out more about Repak's Team Green campaign here.