Modernising Waste Management in Ireland


Waste management in Ireland historically got little attention from central government and exchequer funding, as it was seen as a local authority function. The problems included little regulatory framework and no external regulation of local authority waste activities. Low-technology options were widely used and it was clear by the mid-1990’s that Ireland’s recycling rate was among the lowest in the EU. Ireland overused the landfill network, had no biological treatment capability and no means of recovering energy from waste.

Time-line of change

1996: The Waste Management Act 1996 represented the first step as it introduced new regulations and new powers to public services. Regional waste management plans were also started.

1998: The Government policy document - “Waste Management: Changing our Ways” - was the first look at the state of our waste management sector. Recycling and recovery targets were set out, to be achieved over a fifteen year timeframe. 

2001: The waste management planning framework was initiated. Twenty-nine local authorities were involved in six regional waste management plans. There was also an introduction to the problems of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

2002:  Waste prevention and recycling came to the fore with a Government policy document entitled - “Preventing and Recycling Waste: Delivering Change”. New Producer Responsibility rules were introduced.

2003: The Protection of the Environment Act 2003 introduced a number of important strategies to futher enforce the provisions of the waste code.

2005: Annual reports from the National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP) kept the country informed on its need to prevent waste. An important feature of the reports was its focus on the extent of unauthorised waste activity in Ireland.

2008: The management of hazardous waste was added to by the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan 2008-2012. The Environmental Protection Agency's WEEE enforcement also became more prominent.

2010: National Waste Reports from 1995 onwards are available on the EPA website.

2011: New measures were introduced in relation to waste policy, including the significant reduction of waste in landfills. This included the requirement for phased increases in the landfill levy over the following two years and the finalising of analysis on the introduction of services for segregated household food waste collection.

2018: European Union legislation, the Circular Economy Action Plan and EU roadmaps remain the current platforms for implementing measures regarding waste management practices in Ireland.

2020: Publication of the A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy: Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020-2025. However, the EPA's Ireland's Environment 2020 - An Assessment suggests that given that Ireland has reached a plateau in terms of waste management in recent years, delivering necessary waste prevention and circular economy ambitions will be a challenge in the coming years.

For the latest waste management events, see the website of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

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