The Republic of Ireland (Ireland) is reportedly falling behind in meeting the EU’s targets that will become mandatory in 2025 for recycling municipal plastic packaging waste.
This update was revealed in the latest Circular Economy and Waste Statistics Highlights Report 2021 released by the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The report showed that Ireland’s waste generation levels are continuously rising while its recycling rates are stagnating.
The EPA predicts that due to these factors, Ireland is now ‘very unlikely’ to meet the aforementioned impending EU recycling targets.
According to the report, Ireland’s packaging waste generation increased by 9% to 1.2 million tonnes in 2021.
The country’s packaging recycling rate, however, decreased by 4% to 58% in 2021, compared with 62% in 2020.
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Municipal waste recycling rates in Ireland continue to remain at 41%, as against 3.17 million tonnes of waste generated in 2021.
The report further highlighted that under 28% of plastic packaging generated in Ireland was recycled in 2021 while the remaining 70% and 2% of waste was treated by incineration and disposal, respectively.
Commenting on the EPA’s findings, EPA Circular Economy Programme manager Warren Phelan said: “Ireland is overly reliant on the export of waste for treatment and we are vulnerable to shocks and changes in international markets.
“We do not have enough facilities for the treatment of non-hazardous and hazardous waste which are missed opportunities to capture the energy and economic value of these wastes.”
The EPA has recommended some ways to address this issue, including the implementation of a dedicated Circular Economy Plan in the country.
Suggestions also include improving the waste segregation efforts by businesses and householders in Ireland, launching a brown bin service for organic waste, and minimising the country’s dependence on changeable export markets for its waste disposal.
EPA Office of Environmental Sustainability director David Flynn said: “We live on a resource-finite planet and resource extraction causes greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and water stress.
“To reduce these impacts, we must accelerate our transition from a linear economy to a circular, more resource-efficient economy.”
In 2021, the EPA released its National Waste Statistics Summary Report for 2019, highlighting an 11% increase in Ireland’s packaging waste in that year.