| 11.1°C Dublin

sin bin Waste grows and recycling rate falls as country fails to control household rubbish

Hazardous and construction waste are both on the increase


Half of plastic packaging is to be recycled by 2025, but the current rate is only 28pc and falling. Stock image.

Half of plastic packaging is to be recycled by 2025, but the current rate is only 28pc and falling. Stock image.

Half of plastic packaging is to be recycled by 2025, but the current rate is only 28pc and falling. Stock image.

Rubbish volumes have risen and recycling rates fallen, according to the latest data, which show Ireland struggling to keep waste under control.

The average person generated 628kg of waste each year, an increase of 50kg in just two years and far above the EU average of 502kg.

Only 37pc of this everyday waste was recycled, while 46pc was incinerated and 15pc went to landfill – the least environmentally acceptable form of disposal.

The figures are better for packaging waste, which is the most obvious and easiest to separate and recycle.

Overall, 62pc of packaging waste was recycled, but that statistic hides major failings as only 28pc of plastic packaging was recycled while 69pc was incinerated.

Food waste is another concern, not only because it grew to 1.1 million tonnes, but because more than half of households still have no brown bin service to enable composting of food scraps and other organic waste.

The figures come from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are for pre-pandemic 2019.

Online shopping has soared since then and packaging waste is expected to show a further rise when more recent statistics are gathered.

The EPA said the figures were worrying and urgent action was needed to turn trends around.

EPA senior scientist Dr Tara Higgins said three key issues must be tackled.

The amount of waste generated must fall, recycling rates must rise and reliance on other countries to treat our exported waste must reduce.

Dr Higgins warned the gap between national recycling rates and EU targets was growing and would become more difficult to bridge as the targets are set to rise steadily over the coming years.

Half of plastic packaging is to be recycled by 2025, for example, but the current rate here is only 28pc and falling.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

“Ireland’s declining recycling rates are a significant cause for concern,” Dr Higgins said.

The figures show bins for daily household and commercial waste contained 3.1 million tonnes of rubbish in 2019, a 3.1pc increase in a year, while packaging waste increased by 11pc to 1.1 million tonnes.

Construction waste showed a dramatic 40pc increase to 8.8 million tonnes and hazardous waste grew by 10pc to 0.6 million tonnes.

More construction waste mirrored the rise in building activity, just as the increase in packaging waste followed an increase in consumption.

The challenge is to manage a growing economy without creating a growing waste mountain, and the EPA warns Ireland has much to do to break those ties.

There has been some progress on the policy front with publication of the new Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy.

The plan aims to make industry and manufacturers more responsible and avoid putting products on the market that are not easily reused or recycled.

Recent moves to accept soft plastics for recycling and plans to have a countrywide deposit return scheme for plastic drinks bottles and aluminium cans next year will also help, the EPA said.

However, it added: “Notwithstanding this progress, reversing Ireland’s declining recycling rates and closing the gap to EU targets will require more far-reaching changes.”

It called for urgent new laws to encourage industry to adopt circular economy practices or pay levies in default, and to require all packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

The Department of the Environment is drafting a Circular Economy Bill to make some of those practices mandatory.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Top Videos