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. The policy aimed to achieve the following by 2013;

  • Diversion of 50% of household waste from landfill;
  • Minimum 65% reduction in biodegradable wastes consigned to landfill;
  • Recycling of 35% of municipal waste;
  • Recycling of 85% of construction waste (50% rate to be achieved by 2003).

As of 2009, the targets of recycling 35% of municipal waste and 85% of construction waste had been achieved. Approximately 29.5% of household waste was diverted to landfill. The EPA  also re-examined its calculations for biodegradable waste in 2008 and established a new target of 65% reduction in biodegradable waste to be consigned to landfill by 2016. In 2009, a reduction of 18% biodegradable waste consigned to landfill was achieved.

The waste management planning framework was initiated. Twenty-nine local authorities were involved in six regional waste management plans. Cork City and County Councils developed individual plans, while three other authorities - Donegal, Kildare and Wicklow - decided on individual county 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: In April, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government announced new measures in relation to waste policy, including the significant reduction of waste in landfills. He stressed the requirement for phased increases in the landfill levy over the next two years and the finalising of analysis on the introduction of services for segregated household food waste collection. The Minister stated that the principles underlying the development of the new waste policy will be finalised by the end of 2011.

2013: The latest National Waste Report (for the period 2011) is available on the EPA website.

2014: A Consultation on the Regulation of Household Waste Collection is open. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government invited comments from interested parties on the Regulation of Household Waste Collection. Comments must be received by Friday 31st January 2014.

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