Irish Environmental Protection Agency Calls for Action

Municipal Waste Recycling

Irelands Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released our National Waste Statistics Summary Report for 2020 in December 2022. The National Waste Statistics report is the most recent official data on waste generation and management in Ireland. The report reveals a number of worrying trends.


It appears Ireland and the population of Ireland generates too much waste which is a concern for waste management in our country.

There are wider issues such as climate and environmental impacts caused by increasing amounts of waste. Issues such as land use, resources, chemicals and the energy involved in creating products that become waste.

Household General Waste Characterisation – EPA – What’s in Our Bins

In 2020 key waste streams were also impacted by Covid restrictions:

  • Municipal waste increased from 3.1 million in 2019 to 3.2 million.
  • Packaging waste remained high at 1.1 million tonnes, the fourth year in which total packaging waste generated exceeded 1 million tonnes.
  • Construction waste decreased by 600,000 tonnes to 8.2 million tonnes
  • Overall waste generation increased to 16.2 million tonnes, up from 12.7 million tonnes in 2012.

Ireland’s waste generation continues to increase in line with our economic growth, indicating that we have not succeeded in moving from the linear economic model of “take, make, use, and create waste”.

Business Recyclable Waste Characterisation – EPA – What’s in Our Bins

Circular Economy

A recent OECD study found that Ireland has a circular material use rate of 1.8 per cent, relative to an EU average of 12.8%. We need to move to a circular economy where resources are reused, repaired or recycled as much as possible, and the generation of waste is minimised.

Sharon Finegan, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability noted,

“A circular economy is one that is based on less waste and more reuse of materials; these trends show Ireland is going in the wrong direction. Our rising levels of waste are unsustainable and immediate steps must be taken to address these trends. Systemic change is needed across all economic sectors to shift the focus to designing out and reducing waste and promoting reuse and recycling.”

Household Brown Bin Waste Characterisation – EPA – What’s in Our Bins

Ireland is continuing to meet many of its current EU targets. However, targets for 2025 and beyond are extremely challenging. Our increasing levels of waste are undoing our efforts to recycle more, and our rate of recycling has stagnated. For example:

  • The municipal waste recycling rate was 41 per cent in 2020, however, it must reach 55 per cent by 2025.
  • The plastic packaging recycling rate was 29 per cent in 2020, however, it must reach 50 per cent in 2025.

Swapped Landfill for Incineration

Disposal to landfill has fallen sharply in Ireland over the past decade; a welcome development since this is the least desirable option in the waste management hierarchy. The municipal waste landfill rate in 2020 was 16 per cent, down from 58 per cent in 2010. The share of municipal waste sent for energy recovery increased from four per cent in 2010, to 42 per cent in 2020.

Exported Waste

Ireland remains heavily reliant on export for the treatment of a number of key waste streams, pointing to some significant waste infrastructure deficits and missed opportunities to foster a circular economy. Exported waste for treatment in 2020 included:

  • 27 per cent of biodegradable waste;
  • 39 per cent of municipal waste;
  • 55 per cent of hazardous waste;
  • 50 per cent of packaging waste; and
  • almost all WEEE was exported for the final treatment step.
WEEE Waste – Broken Down for Component Recovery @ Recycle IT


Commenting on the recycling trends Warren Phelan, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme said:

“Our rising levels of waste are unsustainable and are threatening Ireland’s achievement of EU recycling targets. We urgently need mandatory incentivised charging for the collection of non-household (commercial) municipal waste. We need to increase the rollout of brown bins, collect more food waste separately and increase the capture of plastic packaging for recycling at collection and processing stages.”

Further Information

The National Waste Statistics Summary Report for 2020 is available on the EPA website.

National waste statistics for individual waste streams are published on the EPA website.

About Recycle IT

Recycle IT is an award-winning social enterprise providing community, personal and business recycling services for all types of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in Dublin and surrounding counties.

During 2022 Recycle IT provided drop-off and collection services to thousands of homes, schools, charities and businesses across Dublin and surrounding areas collecting a range of WEEE which included thousands of computers, cables, monitors, microwaves, TVs, and computer screens.

Recycling services offered by Recycle IT are provided in partnership with WEEE Ireland. Recycle IT is supported by the Pobal-managed, Community Services Programme, Dormant Accounts and by South Dublin County Council. Recycling services are authorized by the National Waste Collection Permit Office and the local authorities across Leinster.

For more information about Recycle IT please visit or call 01 4578321.

Team Recycle IT

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