December 6th, 2018
The amount of plastic waste from the business sector has doubled over the last 10 year, with single-use coffee cups a growing concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned.
The latest National Waste Characterisation study from the environmental watchdog also revealed that plastics have replaced organic waste as the primary waste item in the household general waste bin.
General waste is rising rapidly, with 2016 figures indicating that we produce 580 kilograms per head per year.
The EPA is concerned with the composition of this waste, an increased percentage of which is coming from plastics, cardboard and metal.
“This raises concerns about unnecessary packaging,” the study found.
Single-use materials such as coffee cups have become a “very significant” part of what we throw away and measures are needed to address this, the report finds.
The study results suggests that 14,000 tonnes of coffee cups are being generated annually, about 4 per cent of commercial and business waste.
Laura Burke, the director general of the EPA, said the study shows that both homeowners and businesses still “have a lot to improve upon” in their waste disposal.
“[The study] highlights the changes we need to make as individuals and businesses to live more sustainably and meet Ireland’s waste recycling and recovery targets”.
The EPA also found that almost 50 per cent of household organic waste is still being disposed of in the recycling or general waste bin.
Similarly, almost 70 per cent of black bin content of businesses should be going into either recycling or organic waste bin.
Food residue in containers and non-recyclable materials placed in recycling bins is also causing contamination and reducing the amount of waste that can be recycled.
The Minister for the Environment, Richard Bruton TD, said that the study points to the need for the Government to “support people in understanding and using their bins”.
“This information shows us that we need to really focus efforts on recycling in these areas. There are real gains to be made in ensuring waste is categorised correctly.”
Cian O’Callaghan of the Social Democrats said that future EPA results will not get better unless drastic action is taken to improve both public awareness and recycling processes.
Cllr O’Callaghan added: “We need to move rapidly to a situation with all consumer goods packaging that if it’s not recyclable, then it’s simply not put on the market.”
He questioned the extent of information on the recycling list on mywaste.ie and the websites inability to issue information on what to do with the likes of black plastics?
A recent Dáil reply to a question from the Social Democrats suggested that black plastics could be recycled.
Cllr O’Callaghan said, however, that party research shows that leaflets distributed to householders by local authorities in certain parts of the country tell them not to do this.
A broadening of the scope of what can be recycled by Irish homes and businesses will be needed to meet our future targets, the EPA said.
The report relating to Household and Business Waste Characterisation 2018 are available on the EPA website here.