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Climate Action: Play your Part - Waste

Published: 2 January 2020
From: Department of the Taoiseach

Household waste

Making small changes at home can have a big environmental impact and save you money at the same time.

An easy first step is to reduce the amount of waste that we produce:

  • Avoid single use disposable items like razors, batteries and wipes.
  • Opt for rechargeable batteries and washable cloths.
  • Say no to junk mail – put a no junk mail sticker on your letterbox to avoid disposing of unwanted paper.

If you cannot avoid items or products ending up in your home you can still make the most out of their potential by giving them a new lease of life through reuse. This concept of extending an object’s life cycle past its original use is at the heart of the circular economy. This keeps the added value in objects for as long as possible while eliminating waste and protecting precious resources.

If reusing is not an option for you then recycling your goods is the next best alternative.


The more stuff we buy, the more waste we generate. The ideal solution to dealing with waste is to change our consumption habits. Sending our rubbish to landfills is not just bad for the environment; it is also a missed opportunity for recovering some of the useful life left in what we are throwing away.

Recycling offers a way to keep these useful resources working for us and avoids the need to use new materials through mining metals, cutting down trees or drilling for oil.

Most waste collectors will have information about what can go into your bins or you can visit MyWaste for further details.

  • Recycling (green bin): cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, drinks cans, tins and Tetra paks.
  • Organic waste (brown bin): kitchen food scraps, fruit and vegetables, plant trimmings, tea bags.
  • Residual or general waste (black bin): anything that you cannot put into your recycling or organic bins.

There are also bring-banks in nearly every town and village for glass, textiles and larger volumes of recycling or bulkier items that won’t fit in your green bin. Many people also opt in to take-back schemes run by furniture and electronics retailers.

Recycling also provides a safe and regulated system for dealing with hazardous waste that could otherwise end up in a landfill. Oils, acids and metals can pollute our water supplies if they are washed away or cause harm to the public if dumped illegally around the country.

Food waste

One third of the food we buy ends up in the bin, costing the average Irish household around €700 each year.

Managing food waste from the start can make a really big difference:

  • Make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Make a list over the course of a week of all the produce that gets thrown away.
  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry, you will buy more than you need.
  • Check use-by-dates before you purchase.
  • Beware of special deals on things that go off quickly, such as fruit, veg and salads.
  • Shop online for the basics to ensure you get only what you need.

If you do end up with food waste, make sure you use your brown wheelie bin or do some composting at home.

Composting turns organic materials like garden waste and vegetable food scraps into dark, crumbly material called compost. Doing it at home means you reap the benefits of the compost too as it can be used to improve the soil in your garden and protect Ireland’s biodiversity and environment.

Producer responsibility

Consumers can reduce waste by looking at the purchases they make, but producers also need to make these choices easier for customers.

A lot of companies are now looking at different ways to become more sustainable by reducing the amount of packaging they use or by using packaging with less of an environmental impact. Plastics are being phased out in favour of biodegradable or recyclable containers and many shops and supermarkets are reverting to selling loose produce.

Where companies have decided that packaging is necessary, they can take part in one or more Producer Responsibility Initiatives (PRIs) which reduce the impact of their waste on the consumer and the environment.

  • Repak : collection and recovery of waste packaging dealing with waste more efficiently.
  • All retailers that sell batteries and accumulators must accept waste products free of charge.
  • Legislation is in place to make sure that households can dispose of some of their Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in a safe and convenient way through retail outlets or local bring centres.
  • Legislation is also in place to ensure that companies that deal with end-of-life vehicles and tyres are compliant in recovering, reusing and recycling them correctly. Owners can also dispose of their end-of-life vehicles at designated centres free of charge.
  • The correct management of farm hazardous waste is essential for protecting the environment and many farmers across Ireland participate voluntarily in a national campaign to collect, recover and dispose of this waste correctly.

What is Government doing?

For more information on what Government is doing to support sustainable waste management, visit the waste, circular economy and climate action section.

Please click here to return to the main climate action page.