IF every citizen on the planet produced as much waste as the Irish, mankind would need three planet Earths to survive, the Environmental Protection Agency warned yesterday.
And urgent action is needed if Ireland is to meet an EU target for diverting household waste from landfill and avoid paying millions of euro in fines.
The EPA's National Waste Report 2007 published yesterday said that diverting food waste from landfill must be the main priority for 2009, noting that household waste generated has not risen "appreciably", with recycling rates remaining "steady".
However, it warned that levels of consumption must be addressed.
"It is worth noting that the collection of increasing quantities of waste for disposal or recycling reflects a level of production and consumption that is unsustainable," the report said.
"Recent ecological footprint analysis for Ireland established that if everyone on the planet consumed as much as an Irish resident, then we would need three Earths to support current global resource consumption," it added.
"While it is apparent that consumers need to keep consuming to maintain prosperity, the business model must change to provide goods and services using less resources."
The report also found:
* The quantity of municipal (non-commercial) waste recycled increased by 3.6pc. Household rates were up 8pc, and packaging waste increased by 14pc.
* 36pc of municipal waste was recycled, exceeding the 2013 recycling target of 35pc.
* More than a quarter of household waste was recycled. While satisfactory, there remains considerable distance to reduce the landfilling of household waste to 50pc by 2013.
* 64pc of packaging waste was recycled, above EU targets.
* The average person recycled 8.7kg of electrical and electronic equipment, more than double the EU target of 4kg per head.
* Recycling of biodegradable municipal waste, such as food waste and garden clippings, fell by 2.7pc, with the amount sent to landfill increasing.
"Although significant progress has been made in managing waste in Ireland, the report clearly shows that Ireland is in danger of missing a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill," EPA director Laura Burke said.
"Urgent and short-term actions are required in 2009 to tackle the generation and recycling of food waste from households and businesses if we are to meet the 2010 target for diverting an additional half a million tonnes of this waste from landfill."
Labour's Environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy said that under a Green minister, Ireland was moving away from EU targets on reducing waste being sent to landfill.
"The report shows that we are sending more food and garden waste to landfill, not less, and that only eight out of 34 local authorities provide a service collecting organic waste from households," she said.
"I welcome the fact that the minister has targeted this area for improvement in 2009, because there is no doubt that improvement is badly needed," she added.
Environment Minister John Gormley said the focus needed to move towards waste prevention, and that new regulations would require commercial premises to recycle food waste.
Levies would be increased for sending waste to landfill, and composting would become "more economically attractive".
He added that agreement would be reached with producers to reduce the amount of packaging used in food.
The EPA says that services must be put in place to separate organic waste, such as food, from other waste streams.