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Waste, the Circular Economy and Climate Action

Published: 30 December 2019
From: Department of the Taoiseach

1. Introduction

Each year, Irish households produce around one tonne of waste. Whether it is recycled or ends up in landfill, all that waste must be transported, treated and disposed of. Any material that goes through that process represents waste of resources, materials, fuel and energy. More information on Ireland’s Waste Story is available here .

The waste sector was responsible for 1.5% of Ireland's Greenhouse Gas emissions in 2018. The waste sector includes emission estimates from solid waste disposal, composting, waste incineration, open burning of waste and wastewater treatment and discharge. The largest of these sources is solid waste disposal on land (landfills) where CH4 is the gas concerned. More information on Ireland’s waste emissions profile is available here .

In order to protect resources and help fight climate disruption, we need to change the way we approach production and consumption and work towards a more sustainable system. Moving away from the carbon heavy, linear model of the present “produce, use and dispose,” to a circular economy will change the way products and services are designed and delivered across Ireland.

The Government has already adopted a number of sustainable consumption measures internally by banning single use plastics , moving towards green public procurement , and commencing efficiency reviews and upgrades in areas like energy, waste and water consumption.

The Climate Action Plan includes specific targets combatting waste including reductions in household waste, landfill reliance, plastics and food waste. It also sets out ambitious recycling targets for municipal, plastic and packaging waste. Information on Ireland’s current waste statistics is available here .

Policy frameworks will also be developed to encourage and promote the circular economy and eco-friendly design which will filter positive choices through to consumers. In tandem with these developments, we can all take steps to familiarise ourselves with sustainable consumption.

2. Ambitions and targets

Key measures set out in the Climate Action Plan to improve the waste sector, include:

  • Reduce food waste by 50% by 2030
  • 70% of packaging waste being recycled by 2030
  • 55% of plastic packaging being recycled by 2030
  • Eliminate non-recyclable plastic and impose higher fees on the production of materials that are difficult to recycle
  • Ban specific single-use plastic convenience items including polystyrene food, cup, and drink containers
  • Develop coherent reduction strategies for plastics, food waste, and resource use
  • Increase the level and the quality of recycling, with less contamination and greater replacement of virgin materials by recycling
  • Eliminate non-recyclable plastic
  • Reduce the reliance on landfill with sharp reductions in plastics and compostables entering landfill

Ireland is responsible for meeting targets under EU waste legislation including the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the Producer Responsibility Directives (Packaging and Packaging Waste, End-of-Life Vehicles, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Batteries and Accumulators). Details on Ireland’s progress to date in meeting these targets are available here .

3. Actions completed to date

  • A High-Level Consultation Event on Waste Policy and the Circular Economy took place on 16 September 2019.
  • The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have been discussing proposals for embedding circular economy principles in Irish manufacturing, as part of the development of the Circular Economy Action Plan .
  • The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment have launched a public consultation to seek views in relation to the proposed introduction of a range of environmental levies. Proposals include a coffee cup levy, a waste recovery levy and increases to the existing plastic bag and landfill levies. Following the consultation, the Minister for Climate Action will revert to Government in relation to the outcome of the consultation and any proposed changes to policy or legislation.

What can I do?

For more information on how you can minimise and manage your waste more sustainably and cut costs, see here.

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