The Republic of Ireland (ROI) has witnessed a 4% decline in the country’s overall recycling rate for packaging waste to 58% in 2021, compared with 62% in 2020.

This news was revealed in the latest waste packaging statistics released by the republic’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on 24 August.

The new data highlights the country’s performance for the reference year 2021.

During this reference year, the ROI generated approximately 1.2 million tonnes of packaging waste, an increase of roughly 120,000 tonnes, or 11%, from 2020.

The packaging waste generated in the ROI is increasing every year according to the ROI, starting from 2016 when this waste generation breached the one million tonne mark.

On the contrary, packaging waste recycling rates have increased ‘three times slower’ when compared to packaging waste generation, at 8% in the 2016 base year.

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This means that packaging waste generation is increasing faster than the recycling rates for said packaging waste. 

The 4% decline in recycling rates during 2021 has further put a risk to the country’s target of achieving a 65% recycling rate for packaging waste by 2025.

However, the agency added that the ROI is meeting existing EU recycling targets, with high recycling rates for other packaging waste streams, including glass, paper/cardboard, and ferrous metals.

To reverse this rising trend, both householders and businesses are being urged to adopt better segregation practices at source and ensure the collection of higher quantities of recyclable packaging materials.

Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability Micheal Lehane said: “With Ireland’s packaging waste exceeding 1.2 million tonnes per year, we need to intensify efforts to avoid unnecessary packaging use in the first instance.

“Packaging waste can be avoided and reduced by replacing single-use with reusable packaging, current examples include pallets, boxes and trays, and through better product design such as lightweighting packaging.”