Ireland smashes packaging recycling targets

Ireland has smashed EU targets for recycling packaging waste for the past ten years - but government chiefs have challenged industry to meet new tougher targets.

Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that in 2005, 64% of packaging waste was recovered against a target of 50%.

Tony Killeen, Minister of State at the Environment Department, congratulated industry and residents for their efforts, but warned there was no room for complacency.

Speaking at the 2008 Repak Service Providers Conference in County Kildare, he said: “The recycling of packaging waste is probably the leading Irish environmental success story.

“For the past number of years, Ireland has consistently exceeded EU and national targets for the recovery and recycling of this waste stream.”

But he said industry must meet higher recovery targets from the EU that apply from this year.

Minister Killeen said: “Achieving our targets in the face of unprecedented growth will mean that we all have to work even harder than before to build on the progress that we have made over the past decade.

“I remain confident that by continuing to work together we can achieve this objective.”

However, it was not all good news for delegates. Dr Andrew Hetherington, CEO of Repak – an industry-funded organisation to encourage packaging recycling – warned that social and economic circumstances in Ireland had changed.

He said the higher targets would have to be met against the backdrop of rapid population increase, smaller household sizes, increased consumerism, and the problem of more than 80% of packaging in Ireland being imported.

Dr Hetherington said: “This means that our ability to determine and control recycling activity is limited.”

Stuart Foster, senior project manager at Recoup – a charity developing plastics recycling – showed that Ireland is lagging behind much of Europe when it comes to recycling plastics.

The country recycles 27% of plastics and does not process any waste plastic at energy recovery facilities.

However, the European average for recycling and energy recovery of plastics is 49% and among EU member states it is 54%.

Kate Martin

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