Ireland poor on plastics recycling despite manufacturing demand

Ireland relies heavily on imported plastic recyclate for its raw materials, recycling less than a third of the plastic waste it generates, according to a government study.

The Irish recycled plastic waste arisings study by rx3 found that while Irish manufacturers have a need and demand for recyclable plastics as raw materials, in 2009 less than a third of the 482,366 tonnes of plastic waste generated was collected for recycling.

The report, the first of its kind to be compiled on the island of Ireland, found that plastics makes up 14% of total household and commercial waste produced.

But in 2009, only 25% of plastic waste – 124,424 tonnes – was collected for recycling (mainly abroad). A further 3% – 13,873 tonnes – was used as refuse-derived/solid recovered fuels, but the majority, 71% – 344,068 tonnes – was landfilled.

The study also found that manufacturing demand for plastic in 2009 was 465,381 tonnes with an estimated use of 153,760 tonnes of plastic recyclate that year. Quality is the main manufacturer criteria and there is manufacturing demand for Irish recyclate where the standard of quality can be met.

The largest sectors catered for by plastic manufacturers and convertors on the island are construction, packaging and ‘other’ which includes a range of products such as polyester fibres and toys. These are the sectors that are most open to using plastic recyclate, and are considered the main targets for using it in the future.

The study also found that the municipal waste stream accounted for 85% of the plastic waste collected, while 6% was from C&D waste and 4% was farm plastics. Plastics from end-of-life vehicles (ELV) and WEEE accounted for 2% each.

Commenting on the findings, Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: “My department, through rx3, is funding a number of feasibility studies that are underway to investigate new technologies for recycling plastic waste as well as novel options and end markets for plastic materials currently not being recycled to remove plastics from landfill.”

The aim of the study is to develop markets for recyclable materials in Ireland, and to provide reliable data on the quantity, quality, type, origin, destination and end use of plastic waste generated.

Maxine Perella

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