IRELAND: “no longer a low-volume waste producing country”

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published data on 1998 waste generation and recovery. Despite the industrial sector achieving higher levels of packaging waste recovery, the overall picture is one of increasing waste going to landfill.

The EPA presents the data with the conclusion that there is “an urgent need for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place for the separate collection, recovery and safe disposal of waste so that a truly integrated approach to waste prevention and management becomes standard practice in Ireland”.

Repak, the association that co-ordinates packaging waste recovery in Ireland, agrees with the EPA about the urgency of the issue. Repak welcomes Irish Environment Minister Noel Dempsey’s announcement that the association’s role will be reviewed. “It’s not a threatening move, but a recognition that the situation is changing,” Andrew Hetherington of Repak told edie. Hetherington believes that the pressure on all sectors – and Repak – will increase as Ireland struggles to meet recycling and recovery targets. Asked whether Repak needs more money, Hetherington says yes: “Ultimately, that’s the long and short of it. The more we need to do, the more we need to charge our members and the more we need to spend.”

With Repak willing to do its part by pushing for more packaging waste recovery from industry and by trying to kick-start consumer recovery schemes, it wants the Irish Government to lend support. Hetherington says that Government promotion of waste separation and recovery – particularly promotion aimed at consumers – is a pressing requirement.

The EPA, while admitting that waste management in Ireland has a long way to go, does not say whether it agrees with the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, that the Irish 650 million (euros 825 million) earmarked for investment in waste infrastructure will prove insufficient (see related story).

While acknowledging that its data may not be complete – given the indifference Ireland has previously afforded to the collection of waste management figures – the EPA is adamant that waste generation is on the increase and recovery and recycling are not keeping pace (data is compared with 1995):

  • household waste generation has increased by 14.7% since 1995, with the recovery rate falling from 4.3% to 3.2%
  • commercial waste going to municipal (vs private) landfills increased 38.7%, with an increase in the recovery rate from 15.3% to 18.7%
  • despite an increase in packaging waste recovery to 14.8%, the EPA reports that “this has been offset by the corresponding increase in packaging waste landfilled”
  • recovery of household packaging waste is particularly poor, at 5.6%
  • industrial waste generation rose 47% from 1995 to 1998, although the EPA admits that the sharp increase may be due in part to improved reporting with the implementatoin of the Integrated Pollution Control Directive
  • within the industrial sector, manufacturing has seen the largest increase in recovery, from 31.4% to 51.4%
  • despite improvements in recovery, 67.9% of industrial waste is landfilled
  • between 1996 and 1998, hazardous waste exports to the UK fell as Holland, Germany and Belgium grabbed more of the market

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