Ireland Meeting Most EU Waste Recovery and Recycling Targets

Ireland is well advanced in achieving most of the EU waste recovery and recycling targets, with the exception of end of life vehicle targets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Waste Report 2010.

The economic downturn is having a marked influence on municipal waste generation, which has decreased by 16 per cent since it peaked in 2007. The quantity of household waste collected for treatment fell by 5 per cent in spite of an increase in population. The recovery rate for packaging waste increased to 74 per cent.

The main findings of the report were that in 2010:
* Municipal waste generation fell by 3.6 per cent compared to 2009.

* Household waste recovery increased by 11 per cent compared to 2009.

* Household waste collected for treatment fell by 5 per cent and commercial waste collected fell by 12 per cent compared to 2009.

* Municipal waste recycling achieved a rate of 38 per cent, a 3 per cent increase compared to 2009, and close to the EU27 norm of 40 per cent.

* Ireland met its 2010 EU Landfill Directive target for diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill.

* A recovery rate of 74 per cent was achieved for packaging waste, exceeding the EU target of 60 per cent by 2011.

* Ireland is failing to meet the End of Life Vehicle Directive targets for reuse, recovery and recycling of vehicles and their components.

* 29 per cent of occupied houses do not participate in, or are not offered, a waste collection service.

* At current fill rates, 15 of the 28 currently active municipal solid waste landfills in Ireland will close in the next three years. There is a remaining national landfill capacity of 12 years.

* Use of waste as an energy fuel grew by 20 per cent from 2009 figures to 183,000 tonnes in 2010.

EPA director general Laura Burke comments: “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 2.9 million tonnes in 2010. The economic downturn is continuing to have a marked influence on waste generation, particularly in the commercial waste and construction and demolition waste streams. When the economy begins to improve, it is important that we decouple waste generation from economic growth.”

Ireland is making good progress towards achieving its EU targets in areas such as packaging waste, waste electrical goods and batteries. “While Ireland has met its 2010 target for the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill, the more stringent EU targets coming into effect in 2013 and 2016 under the Landfill Directive will be much harder to achieve and will require continued investment in the infrastructure needed to treat biodegradable waste,” she points out.

Priority actions identified in the EPA report were:

* Policies and actions necessary to decouple waste growth from economic growth need to be implemented, with waste prevention at their core;

* Continued support for resource efficiency and conservation initiatives in relation to waste, water and energy is required to deliver reduced costs for public and private enterprises and reduced impacts on the environment;

* Diversion of very large quantities of food waste from landfill remains a key priority that must be addressed if Ireland is to comply with the Landfill Directive;

* State policy to require householders to avail of a collection service will help address problems associated with large number of households not availing of such a service;

* Action needs to be undertaken to improve the reuse, recovery and recycling rates for End of Life Vehicles to ensure that Ireland complies with the relevant EU targets.

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