Households and businesses are generating more waste than ever without improving recycling rates.
New figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that municipal waste – everyday rubbish and recyclables disposed of in bins and bags – has grown to 3.2 million tons per year.
Total waste, which includes construction, industrial and packaging waste, now stands at 16.2 million tons, or just over three tons for every inhabitant in the country.
The EPA says the trends are “worrying” and warns Ireland will struggle to meet EU recycling targets set for 2025.
In addition, the country is far too dependent on exporting the waste problem abroad.
Export disposed of 39 percent municipal waste, 50 percent packaging waste, 55 percent hazardous waste, 27 percent biodegradable waste and almost all electrical and electronic equipment waste.
Sharon Finegan, director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said Ireland should adopt “circular economy” principles, generate less waste and encourage the reuse of materials.
“These trends show that Ireland is going in the wrong direction,” she said.
“Our growing waste generation is unsustainable and immediate action must be taken to address it.
“Across all sectors of the economy, systemic change is needed to shift the focus to design
Avoid and reduce waste and encourage reuse and recycling.”
Of the 3.2 million tonnes of municipal waste, 42 percent was incinerated, 41 percent recycled and 16 percent sent to landfill, while a small amount was composted.
However, much of the recycling took place abroad.
The recycling rate has not improved since 2016 but needs to reach 55 percent within the next three years to meet the EU targets.
Plastic packaging recycling has an even bigger gap to fill, as it is only 29 percent compared to the 50 percent it aims to reach by 2025.
An incredible 71 pieces of plastic packaging were burned.
Construction debris was falling but that was linked to the Covid slowdown hangover. The revival of activity is expected to drive waste levels back up.
“Ireland’s waste generation continues to increase in line with economic growth, suggesting that
that we have failed to break away from the linear economic model of “take, make, use,
and waste,'” the EPA said.
It added that a recent OECD study found that Ireland had a circular material utilization rate of 1.8 per cent, compared to an EU average of 12.8 per cent.
Waste causes enormous environmental problems, but it is also a driver of climate change as many discarded materials are made from fossil fuels or forests and huge amounts of energy go into their production, transport and disposal.
Landfills also emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/ireland-is-going-in-the-wrong-direction-country-is-producing-more-rubbish-than-ever-as-recycling-rates-stagnate-42200884.html ‘Ireland is going in the wrong direction’ – the country is producing more rubbish than ever as recycling rates stagnate