Ireland Well Advanced Towards Achieving EU Waste Objectives

Ireland is well advanced in achieving most of the EU waste recovery and recycling targets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Waste Report 2009. However, the report urges continued efforts to divert biodegradable waste from landfill, improve the penetration of source separated waste collection services (3 bin), and prevent waste arisings from all sectors of society.

In 2009, municipal waste generation in Ireland fell by a further 8.4% following a 5% reduction the previous year. These changes are in line with reductions in GDP and personal consumption levels. The amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled fell by 11%, leaving Ireland within 143,000 tonnes of meeting its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for 2010. Household waste generation fell by 3% in spite of an increase in population; 70% of packaging waste was recovered and there was a decrease of 62% in construction and demolition waste.

Laura Burke, director of the EPA’s Office of Climate Change, Licensing and Resource Use.

“There has been a significant reduction in the amount of municipal waste generated in Ireland, from a peak of almost 3.4 million tonnes in 2007, to less than 3 million tonnes in 2009. The economic downturn is having a marked effect on waste generation, particularly in the commercial waste and construction and demolition waste streams. Ireland is also making good progress towards achieving its EU targets for packaging waste, waste electrical goods, the first objectives under the Landfill Directive and also objectives under the new Waste Framework Directive,” comments Laura Burke, director of the EPA’s Office of Climate Change, Licensing and Resource Use.

“While the reductions in waste generation and the improvements in recovery seen in 2009 are welcome, we must continue to focus on resource efficiency to ensure that when economic growth does return, it is not accompanied by a surge in waste generation,” she adds.

Significant progress has been made in managing municipal waste in Ireland and the report clearly shows that Ireland is expected to meet a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill in 2010. However, the targets for 2013 and 2016 will be more difficult to achieve. Urgent and sustained actions are required if Ireland is to meet these EU targets, including the further roll-out of source-segregated collections, recovery of organic waste and development of infrastructure for the pre-treatment of municipal waste prior to disposal.

The EPA has published guidance on municipal waste pre-treatment and has reviewed all the municipal waste landfill licences in Ireland to include appropriate pre-treatment licence conditions. This will greatly assist in Ireland’s compliance efforts with the Landfill Directive by restricting the amount of biodegradable municipal waste allowed to be landfilled.

However, further priority actions for biodegradable municipal waste management in Ireland are recommended in the report. They include the need to:

* Ensure there is adequate infrastructure to treat the very large quantities of organic (particularly food) waste that must be collected separately and diverted from landfill and also for the organic component of the mixed residual waste stream;

* Develop outlets for the products of such treatment;

* Update and clarify national waste policy;

* Promote food waste prevention through National Waste Prevention Programme initiatives;

* Put in place services for the separate collection of organic (particularly food) waste at households and commercial premises in all local authority functional areas;
Improve penetration of educational material to households on the use of the third (organics) bin and,

* Formulate and implement regulations/bye-laws that can be used to require the segregation and separate collection of food waste at household premises.

Laura Burke continues: “The new EU Waste Framework Directive, which came into effect in December 2010, will be a significant influence and driver of change in waste management practices and governance in Ireland and elsewhere over the coming decade. In line with EU objectives, the EPA’s National Waste Prevention Programme focuses on breaking the link between economic growth and waste. Through this programme the EPA is developing waste prevention and resource efficiency capacity in the areas of waste and water in particular. Such actions can assist everyone, in households and businesses alike, to improve resource efficiency and significantly cut costs.”

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