By Eva Osborne-Sherlock
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said that its latest waste management statistics show that Irish businesses and homes are still “putting the majority of their waste into the wrong bin”.
The agency’s National Municipal Waste Characterisation Project results were published on Wednesday (September 20), and revealed that over two-thirds of waste put in general waste bins could have been placed in recycling or organic waste bins.
The EPA carries out the waste characterisation project every four years with the aim of providing accurate and up-to-date waste data on the nature and composition of Ireland’s waste.
The statistics released this week also revealed that food waste is the most common waste in commercial general waste bins (it makes up 30% of all waste) and in household general waste bins (17% of all waste).
The EPA said thousands of households and businesses still do not have an organic waste bin and that correct food waste segregation “cannot be achieved” until this changes.
“Urgent action is needed to improve Ireland’s segregation and recycling performance to achieve municipal recycling rate targets and transition to a circular economy,” the agency said.
“The waste industry needs to do more by providing organic waste bins to all households and commercial premises and support awareness campaigns to make segregation easier.”
The agency said the rollout of organic waste bins to houses, apartments, and commercial sectors needs be enforced to ensure waste collectors are providing the same level of service to customers.
Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, Micheál Lehane, said: “The results of the latest municipal waste characterisation are disappointing.
“Currently businesses and householders are putting recyclables, food waste and packaging waste into our general bins. This is a lost opportunity.
“Organic waste bins need to rolled out urgently to businesses and households without this service. Implementation of the new commercial waste regulations is needed without delay.”
The statistics showed that recyclable materials such as plastics, paper, cardboard and metal account for around 24% of the household general waste bin and 37% of the commercial general waste bin.
“Access to recycling infrastructure, such as civic amenity sites and bring banks, needs to be made easier for householders to support segregation of special, bulky and hazardous wastes,” the EPA said.
Programme manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme, Warren Phelan, said Ireland’s recycling targets and transition to a circular economy are “currently off track”.
“There are significant opportunities to divert recyclable materials from the general waste bin, but householders and the commercial sector need more support from the waste industry to make it easier to segregate their waste correctly,” he said.
“Targeted awareness campaigns on segregation and focused enforcement activities are also needed.”
Further information on what should be put in household and commercial bins is available on the EPA Website.