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Ireland surpass all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2020

Published: Thursday, June 24, 2021.
EU recycling and recovery targets

Ireland surpass all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2020 despite Covid-19

  • Total tonnes recycled and recovered in 2020 increased by 3% to 1,037,782 tonnes (2019: 1,008,130 tonnes). The increase was driven by growth in packaging recycled from households.
  • Recycling increased by 25,000 tonnes to 703,000 tonnes and recovery increased by 1,721 tonnes to 335,000 tonnes.
  • All key materials surpassed current EU recycling targets: Glass 87% (EU target 60%) , Metal 70% (EU target 50%), Paper 79% (EU target 60%), Plastic 29.3% (EU target: 22.5%), Wood 61% (EU target 15%).

Despite challenging operational conditions caused by Covid-19, Repak achieved all EU recycling targets and successfully implemented the legislative change requirements of the Circular Economy Package (CEP) and the Programme for Government in 2020. 

The news was announced this morning by Repak, Ireland’s leading environmental organisation and  government approved packaging compliance scheme, at the launch of its 2020 Annual Report.

The 2020 Report, titled ‘Adapting to Change’, highlighted the major challenges faced by Repak Members and all key stakeholders during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report commended the Irish Waste Industry for its exceptional response to Covid-19 conditions in 2020 resulting in Ireland achieving all EU targets and being one of the few countries in Europe to maintain a full waste recycling service throughout the year.

Recycling and Recovery in 2020

In 2020, the total amount of Repak funded material recovered and recycled in Ireland was 1.038m tonnes – a 2.9% increase from 2019 and surpassing the million-tonne mark for the second time. Overall, recycling tonnage increased by 25k tonnes to 703k tonnes with all additional 25k tonnes coming from household and domestic recycling (324k tonnes). Commercial recycling was unchanged from 2019 at 379k tonnes.  In 2020, Ireland achieved a total provisional forecast recovery rate of 98% and a recycling rate of 63.4% subject to EPA verification in due course.

All key material categories performed strongly and surpassed current EU recycling targets: Glass 87% (EU target 60%) , Metal 70% (EU target 50%), Paper 79% (EU target 60%), Plastic 29.3% (EU target: 22.5%), Wood 61% (EU target 15%).

Speaking at the AGM , CEO of Repak, Séamus Clancy said: 

“Despite challenging operational conditions caused by Covid-19 in 2020, Repak’s leadership, funding, support and intervention across operations, has ensured that recycling has continued to develop and succeed in Ireland.  Last year’s recycling results reflects the changing circumstances we faced as a nation.  An increase in packaging waste from the household sector reflected consumer buying and consumption patterns, while the commercial sector saw a reduction in waste generated, particularly in the hospitality sector, which was severely impacted by the pandemic.

Throughout 2020, the Waste Industry Recovery Operators demonstrated tremendous resolve to ensure continuity of service and have thus achieved excellent results across all materials. With the support of Repak, they have shown an ability to rise to and overcome unforeseen operational difficulties, including higher generation and recycling of packaging waste, particularly in the household and bring bank sectors.

Our recycling and recovery results are a strong indicator that we remain amongst the top nations in Europe for both our intent to achieve future EU targets and our recycling tonnage levels. I would like to thank the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), the Local Authorities, Regional Planning Offices, and the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities (WERLAs) for their additional support in maximising the use of resources for recycling in Ireland during the pandemic. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our Members for their continued support and the Irish public for their efforts during a very difficult year. ”

Policy Developments

In 2020, Repak was reappointed to operate Ireland’s packaging compliance scheme for a further 5-year period, from January 2021 to December 2025. Repak successfully applied to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD, for a renewal of Approval which was granted in accordance with Article 19 of the Regulations.

2020 was also a critical year for advancing and agreeing terms of the Circular Economy Action Plan which is one of the main initiatives of the European Green Deal. Two areas of relevance to Repak and its Members are the measures on Packaging and Plastics. For full details see https://repak.ie/driving-change/circular-economy-eu-legislation/what-does-the-cep-mean-for-repak-members

In September, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, TD, launched the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020- 2025. From a Repak perspective, the key targets under the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy of most relevance are the Single Use Plastic (SUP) and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) directives. The SUP and EPR Directives are major bodies of work which Repak contributed to in 2020 to represent the best interest of Members.

In 2020 Repak also piloted its Eco Fee Modulation and Net Necessary Cost models in preparation for complying with the requirements of the Circular Economy Legislative Package. The new eco fee modulated structure will come into effect on July 1, 2021.

As part of Repak’s commitment to educating members on new legislative changes, Repak held two membership webinars in October 2020 and March 2021 which explained changes required by CEP & SUP and their impact on the collection and treatment of the packaging.

Speaking on the advancements in recycling policy and Repak’s reappointment, CEO of Repak, Séamus Clancy added: 

“The decision to renew Approval is an endorsement of Repak’s track record and success in providing compliance services to Members in the area of packaging recovery and recycling since it was first granted in 1997The next five years will bring great change to recycling and waste recovery policy across all materials in Ireland and throughout Europe. We have been a leading nation and respected voice at an EU level in waste management for the last 21 years, surpassing all targets to date, and believe we are the right organisation to lead Ireland to a greener future at this critical policy juncture. 

The Board of Repak recognise the major challenges that the Circular Economy Package Directive which includes the introduction of eco fee modulation, net necessary cost and the impact that these will have for Members. The Single Use Plastics Directive has also been reflected in the programme for Government and includes the introduction of a deposit return scheme in Ireland along with significant labelling changes and other measures. Repak will continue to advocate for Members and represent their best interests in the equitable application of these new legislative requirements.”

Plastic Pledge

In June 2020, Repak launches the second Repak Members’ Plastic Pledge Annual Report which highlights the achievements of pledge signatories against the 5 Plastic Pledge objectives. To date, 134 Plastic Pledge signatories have begun or completed 200 programmes which has resulted in reduction or replacement of over 16,100 tonnes of plastic packaging. An average of 14.8% reduction in plastic packaging was reported by Repak’s Plastic Pledge Members as having been completed during 2019.

Increased Membership

Despite the adverse effect Covid-19 had on businesses in Ireland, Repak’s Member numbers remained stable – increasing from 3,407 to 3,414 Members by end of year.

To read Repak’s annual report in full, visit www.repak.ie.

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