Producer Responsibility Initiatives
The Producer Responsibility Initiative in Ireland
The Waste Management Act (1996) established a legislative basis for Producer Responsibility Initiatives (PRIs). Essentially, PRIs allow product producers to develop schemes that fulfil the basic objectives of waste management legislation. This means that the products they produce are disposed of in a responsible fashion, which complies with current government policy. The principal PRIs in Ireland are:
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
WEEE aims to promote the reuse, recycling and recovery of this material. The 2018 EU WEEE collection target was set at 45% of EEE placed on the market (EPA, 2020). Ireland surpassed its EU targets across all ten WEEE categories in 2018 with a collection percentage of 61%. The target will increase to 65% or alternatively 85% based on WEEE generated from 2019.
By 26 September 2016 Ireland had to achieve a minimum collection rate for waste portable batteries of 45%. Ireland surpassed this achieving a 47% collection rate in 2019 (EPA, 2020).
Packaging waste is a by-product of consumption by everyone; government, business, industrial users and the general public. Repak, an organisation set up to fund the recovery and recycling of packaging, was established to help businesses meet their legal obligations, as set out in the Waste Management (Packaging) Regulations 2007.
End-of-life vehicles (ELVs)
When a vehicle has reached an “end-of-life” status, and is ready to be scrapped, the registered owner is legally obliged to deliver the vehicle to an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) to minimise the impact on the environment. The ATF removes all hazardous components for proper disposal, and removes all other parts for recycling and recovery. What is left of the vehicle is then sent for further treatment to a shredder facility.
Tyres and farm plastics
The EPA estimates that the percentage of waste tyres unaccounted for in Ireland is 51%. The corresponding figure for the EU 27 is just 4% (i.e. 96% of waste tyres are accounted for). The current system is clearly not functioning as intended, which make the PRI an important positive contribution to this situation. Just as importantly, due to intensification and changes in farming practices more and more plastic is being used on farms. The plastics generally have a short lifespan (less than three years) and because of the way they are used, collected and stored, the risk of contamination can be very high. Again, PRIs will make a positive difference in the way that farm plastics are treated, with corresponding benefits to the environment.
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