While household, commercial and construction waste have all seen a reduction, this is the result of the economic downturn rather than an improvement in waste management.

The National Waste Report 2009 covers performance in waste generation and management and progress towards meeting EU recovery, recycling and diversion from landfill targets.

The main cause for concern is Ireland’s ability to divert waste from landfill and its waste infrastructure. Of the country’s 29 landfill sites, 16 will be full within three years.

The report highlights the need to divert more biogradeable waste from landfill, for improvements in source separated waste collection services and for more effort in preventing waste arisings.

EPA director of Office of Climate Change, Licensing and Resource Use, Ms Laura Burke, said: “The economic downturn is having a marked effect on waste generation, particularly in the commercial waste and construction and demolition waste streams.

“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.”

On a more positive note, Ireland is currently on track to meet its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for biodegradable municipal waste for 2010.

A recovery rate of 70%has been achieved for packaging waste, exceeding the EU target of 60 per cent by 2011.

Municipal waste recycling achieved a rate of 35%, close to the EU27 norm of 40%.

However the report goes on to say that the targets for 2013 and 2016 will be more difficult to achieve. It says ‘urgent and sustained’ actions are required if those targets are to be met.

The minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Éamon Ó Cuív was upbeat. He said: “I am heartened by the way Ireland continues to make progress in the management of waste. … and the progress towards meeting Ireland’s obligations under the EU Landfill Directive is very heartening.”

He said his department would consider the report carefully not just in relation to its overall messages but also in relation to areas requiring particularly focused action.

Alison Brown

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