'Throwaway culture' - Warning from EPA that Ireland is going in the 'wrong direction'

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'Throwaway culture' - Warning from EPA that Ireland is  going in the 'wrong direction'

Levels of municipal waste generation in Ireland continue to be closely linked to high consumption levels, as well as a single-use and throwaway culture, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Waste Statistics Summary Report 2018.

The report includes the most recent official data on waste generation and management in Ireland.

Ireland continues to generate significant amounts of waste, amounting to 14 million tonnes in 2018. In particular, municipal waste from household and commercial sources amounted to 2.9 million tonnes, up 3.5 per cent on 2017.

While Ireland achieved high recycling rates in some material streams, such as glass and paper/cardboard packaging, the figures reveal some worrying trends.

Ireland’s recycling rate for municipal waste has decreased to 38 per cent in 2018, having remained stagnant at 40 per cent since 2014. Recycling of packaging waste has declined from 70 per cent in 2013 to 64 per cent in 2018.

Ireland also continues to have some significant waste infrastructure deficits and relies on export for a number of key waste streams, including packaging and hazardous waste.

Dr Eimear Cotter, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said: “A circular economy is one that is based on less waste and more reuse and recycling of materials that otherwise would be thrown away. These figures indicate that we are going in the wrong direction across a number of indicators, such as falling recycling levels.

"To get the most from our resources, we need to prevent waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation. We also need to significantly increase our recycling rates to ensure that Ireland meets ambitious new EU targets in the coming years. Measures that promote better segregation of waste and also expand the range of materials that can be recycled in Ireland will be key to this.”

Over the past decade in Ireland, there has been a welcome decline in landfilling of municipal waste in Ireland, from 62 per cent in 2008 to just 14 per cent in 2018.

Over the same period, the share of waste sent for incineration with energy recovery has increased substantially from 3 per cent in 2008 to 43 per cent in 2018, reflecting Ireland’s increased incineration capacity since 2011.

While these trends indicate some progress has been made in moving waste management further up the waste hierarchy, Ireland’s stagnating recycling rates and continuing high levels of waste generation are a significant cause for concern.

Commenting on the figures, EPA senior scientist Dr Tara Higgins said: “We welcome that the Government’s new Waste and Circular Economy Action Plan sets out concrete measures to address Ireland’s stagnating recycling rates and continuing high levels of waste generation. We look forward to engaging with and participating in the implementation of the Plan to put Ireland on a path to a circular economy and bring about environmental and climate benefits.”