Infrastructure Capacity Issues

Changes in International Agreements on Waste Management

Ireland's collected and recycled plastic waste was originally split in half for treatment with one half of it treated in the European Union and the other half exported mainly to China. This however changed in 2017 when China announced that  it would ban plastic waste imports by the end of that year. This ban eliminated the market for plastic recyclables. With no long term infrastructure in Ireland equipped to deal with the countries waste, this presents a significant challenge for how Ireland will have to manage its waste in the future.

National and international strategies discussed in Ireland and the EU point towards a circular economy based approach. Ireland will have to look at factors such as the adequacy of their current waste processing infrastructure as well as the public's attitude to over consumption and waste management. In light of these new changes a new bin charges regime was established in 2017 aimed at reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. This new system instead encourages the public to recycle more in a bid to reduce household costs by charging for black bin through a weight based approach. The Government has stated that these measures are crucial in avoiding the exceedance of national landfill capacity. In addition, a Waste Reduction Bill was presented to the Dail by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment (JOCCA) that same year with aims to reduce plastic waste in Ireland and promote sustainable resource use. The Bill proposes to ban certain single use plastics i.e. non-recyclable, non-compostable plastic tableware (plastic cups, plastic glasses, plastic plates and other plastic tableware) from the first of January 2020 (JOCCA, 2019). It also aims to introduce a deposit and return scheme (DRS) on returned sealed beverage containers. The bill is currently at its third stage before the Dail. While top down policy measures such as these will reduce pressure on our national waste management capacity, more will be needed to curb unsustainable behaviours regarding waste.

To support a move towards a circular economy, the government published A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy: Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020-2025 in 2020. Whilst challenges remain in achieving national and EU waste management targets, such policies are necessary if Ireland is to work towards meeting necessary waste prevention and circular economy ambitions in the coming years.

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