EPA figures show less waste going to landfill and more to energy recovery

  • 2013 figures show that Ireland is sending less residual waste (i.e. typically black bin waste) to landfill and more to energy recovery.
  • The quantity of waste exported for use as a fuel increased by 197% between 2012 and 2013.
  • Although slightly more household waste was collected in 2013, the quantity of household waste managed per person has remained relatively stable since 2011.
  • Composting and anaerobic digestion of municipal waste has increased. Further improvements are expected with effective enforcement of 2013 legislation aimed at promoting the separate collection of household food waste.

The EPA published three waste bulletins that provide the latest trends on

  • household waste [This bulletin reports preliminary information on household waste in Ireland in 2013.]
  • treatment of residual waste (typically black bin waste) [This bulletin reports on the changes that have occurred in the management of residual waste1 between 2009 and 2013]
  • composting and anaerobic digestion. [This bulletin reports information on composting and anaerobic digestion at merchant facilities that accept waste for treatment.]

In recent years there have been a number of developments in the waste infrastructure and legislative landscape that have led to changes in how residual waste (i.e. typically black bin waste) is managed. An increasing share of residual waste is being used as an energy source/fuel and less is being sent to landfill. This is linked to the increase in the landfill levy and the availability of more waste-to-energy outlets, including abroad.

Dr Jonathan Derham, EPA Programme Manager, said “The figures indicate a number of positive developments. In particular, the EPA welcomes the continued movement of residual waste away from landfill to energy recovery. However, an increasing reliance on the export of such waste is unsustainable. This represents a lost opportunity in terms of potential energy recovery and jobs for the State. This needs to be countered with national waste infrastructure to bring forward opportunities for the re-use of value-added material and create a circular economy.”

In terms of household waste, there was a slight increase in the quantity of household waste collected in 2013. The trend in household waste managed per person in the State has, however, remained relatively stable since 2011.

There was a slight increase in municipal waste (from both households and commercial premises) treated at composting facilities in 2013. This includes an 8% increase in brown bin waste (mainly food waste) accepted at composting and anaerobic digestion facilities.

National legislation introduced in 2013, governing the separate collection of household food waste, is expected to have a positive impact on the quantity of municipal waste undergoing composting and anaerobic digestion. Such waste has not shown any significant increase since 2011. The roll out of the brown bin to households on a phased basis commenced in July 2013 and will be completed by July 2016 – this will need to be effectively enforced if it is to have maximum impact.

Dr Eimear Cotter, Senior Manager, commented, “Reliable and timely figures such as those published today are key to informing good decision-making on the challenges associated with the sustainable management of waste in Ireland. The EPA welcomes the public consultation, launched this week, on draft Regional Waste Management Plans, and we look forward to working with the Lead Authorities for these Regions in delivering appropriate waste management behaviours and measuring their success.”

More Information
EPA’s National Statistics – Progress towards EU waste recycling, recovery and diversion targets. Updated November 2014.[pdf, 197kB]

Residual waste is the fraction of collected municipal waste (typically household and commercial black-bin) that isn’t or can’t be separated for recycling (either as dry recyclables or organic waste). Residual wastes also arise from the mechanical and biological treatment of wastes and are the fraction that cannot be recycled.

Recovery means any operation the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfill that function, in the plant or in the wider economy. Annex II of the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) sets out a non-exhaustive list of recovery operations, which includes material recovery (i.e. recycling), energy recovery (i.e. use a fuel (other than in direct incineration) or other means to generate energy) and biological recovery (eg composting).

Recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations