Recycling rates up in Ireland but experts warn more support needed

Household packaging recovered in 2011 was up by almost 10% to 208,000 tonnes compared with 2010, according to the latest figures released by Repak, Ireland's packaging recovery organisation.

The overall used packaging recovered went up by 4.1% in 2011, totalling 652,000 tonnes, compared with 2010. Of this packaging, 98% was recycled and 11% recovered.

Repak is funded by packaging levies charged to participating member companies, according to the amount and type of packaging they place on the market. These levies are used to help fund the nationwide recycling collections for used packaging through local authorities and waste contractors.

The equivalent carbon savings of the amount of packaging recovered in 2011 represents taking more than a quarter of a million cars off Irish roads.

Ireland is now ranked 7th in Europe for packaging recycling according to the latest Eurostat figures. However, Repack has warned that Ireland’s position is being threatened by decreasing fee income, lack of enforcement for non-compliant companies and potential packaging taxes.

Repak chief executive officer, Dr Andrew Hetherington said: “While we are confident Repak funding has helped again grow overall packaging recovery and recycling rates, 2011 was a challenging year for Repak. Our scheme is being impacted by decreasing fee income, increasing recovery/recycling costs and the possibility of higher targets exacerbated by lack of enforcement.

“Furthermore, the current PRI (Producer Responsibility Initiative) review, while welcome, adds further uncertainty around issues such as the introduction of a potential government imposed packaging tax and the possible introduction of a Deposit and Refund scheme for certain packaging
waste types. Such issues could have serious negative impacts on the current success of the Repak scheme.

“We also urge the government to push for greater compliance with environmental laws and increase participation rates in Repak so that we can achieve higher recovery and recycling rates and secure a brighter, greener future for Ireland.”

Repak reported increases in recycling and recovery of aluminium, glass and steel. Plastic saw the greatest increase at 20.9%.

The amount of refuse derived fuel produced from contaminated paper and plastics, traditionally sent to landfill, rose to 56,000 tonnes in 2011 – an increase of 65% from 2010.

Conor McGlone

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