Waste Management

Municipal waste recycled, used as fuel and disposed to landfill (tonnes), 2001 - 2018
Environmental Protection Agency (2020)

Waste management happens around us every day. Waste treatment options are more complex than the provision of other environmental services, such as water and wastewater management. It involves the removal, sorting, recycling and disposal of waste materials that have been discarded. Recycling of waste is a key process in reducing the effects of waste on health and the environment. In 2018, Ireland generated 2.9 million tonnes of municipal waste and recycled 38% of it (EPA, 2020). This represents a decrease from 40% in 2017 and 41% in 2016, suggesting that Ireland faces significant challenges to meet EU recycling targest for 2020 to 2035. 

Ireland remains heavily dependent on export markets in managing its waste; 35% of Ireland’s municipal waste was exported for recycling or recovery in 2018 (over 654,000 tonnes for recycling, 287,000 tonnes for energy recovery and almost 75,000 tonnes for composting). A further 6,000 tonnes was exported for disposal.

In 2018, 38% of municipal waste was recycled, 43% used for energy recovery and 14% disposed to landfill. These rates are quite removed from the 2020 target to recycle 50% of municipal waste (increasing to 65% in 2035) and the 2035 target to dispose of 10% or less in landfill (EPA, 2020). Given the pressures on our waste management systems and the unsustainability of waste export more will be required to prevent waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation, as well as to significantly increase Ireland’s recycling rates in the coming years (EPA, 2020).

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