MUNICIPAL WASTE volumes on Ireland are tumbling due to the recession, with a drop of more than 8 per cent in 2009 alone, according to the latest national waste report published today by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This followed a 5 per cent drop in waste volumes during the previous year “in line with reductions in GDP and personal consumption levels”, the agency said, noting that this had happened despite an increase in the Republic’s population.
As a result, “Ireland is currently on track to meet its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for biodegradable municipal waste for 2010” while the recovery rate for packaging – at 70 per cent – is already ahead of the EU’s 60 per cent target for 2011.
The Economic and Social Research Institute, in a 2009 report commissioned by Dublin City Council to justify the Poolbeg incinerator, forecasted that waste levels would continue to grow by about 4 per cent per annum to 2025.
The 8.4 per cent fall in waste volumes in 2009 was most pronounced in the construction sector, where the amount of waste being generated declined by 62 per cent, followed by the commercial sector (12 per cent) and households (3 per cent).
However, the EPA report calls for continued efforts to divert biodegradable waste from landfill, improve the use of three-bin source-separated waste collection services, and “prevent waste arisings from all sectors of society”.
It notes that the amount of biodegradable municipal waste landfilled fell by 11 per cent, “leaving Ireland within 143,000 tonnes of meeting its EU Landfill Directive diversion target for 2010”.
Overall, waste volumes were down to less than three million tonnes.
Commenting on the report’s findings, EPA director Laura Burke, said: “The economic downturn is having a marked effect on waste generation, particularly in the commercial waste and the construction and demolition waste streams.
“While the reductions in waste generation and the improvements in recovery seen in 2009 are welcome, we must continue to focus on resource efficiency to ensure that when economic growth does return, it is not accompanied by a surge in waste generation.”
The report “clearly shows that Ireland is expected to meet a key EU target for diverting biodegradable municipal waste from landfill in 2010”.
However, it warned that the tougher EU targets for 2013 and 2016 would be more difficult to achieve.
“Urgent and sustained actions are required if Ireland is to meet these EU targets, including the further roll-out of source-segregated collections, recovery of organic waste and development of infrastructure for the pre-treatment of municipal waste prior to disposal.”
These actions would include ensuring that there are adequate facilities to treat “very large quantities” of organic (particularly food) waste that must be collected separately and diverted from landfill and also for the organic component of the mixed residual waste stream.
There was also a need to develop outlets for the products of such treatment, update and clarify national waste policy, promote food waste prevention through national waste prevention programme initiatives and put in place more source-separated collection services.
“The new EU Waste Framework Directive, which came into effect in December 2010, will be a significant influence and driver of change in waste management practices and governance in Ireland and elsewhere over the coming decade,” Ms Burke said.
The full report is at epa.ie/downloads/pubs/waste/stats