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Packaging waste from online retailers increases by record volumes in 2020

 

Repak welcomes the  commitment given by the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, in the recently published policy document  “A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy”, to address the issue of overseas online businesses selling goods into Ireland. 

Key findings

  • Ireland’s online packaging waste (paper, cardboard and plastic) has increased by 2,953 tonnes (25%) since 2019, the equivalent weight of 15 million standard sized parcels
  • Repak calls on overseas online retailers who are generating  packaging waste, but are not contributing towards Ireland’s recycling costs; Fraser Group (Sports Direct, Jack Wills), Screwfix.ie, Wish, Shein and Light in the Box, M&M Direct, Under Armour and others could act in a more corporate and socially responsible manner for the packaging waste they place on the market by contributing to its recycling cost. We are asking these companies to do the right thing on a voluntary bases rather than having to wait for legislation.
  • 38% of shoppers in Ireland buy more frequently from overseas retailers online, despite higher volumes of packaging waste being generated in Ireland’s recycling system each year
  • 77% have noticed their recycling bin fill up quicker in the last few months  
  • 69% will avail of Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals online this weekend
  • 95% think online overseas retailers should contribute to Ireland’s recycling bill, as Repak announces it costs €1m per year to collect and recycle the packaging waste of international online retailers, most of whom don’t pay a cent towards the recycling costs

In 2020, packaging waste generated from online shopping in Ireland increased by a staggering 2,953 tonnes (25%), the equivalent of 15 million standard sized parcels or 9 parcels per each household. That’s according to data released today by environmental not-for-profit organisation, Repak.

New research of 2,600 shoppers1 conducted by Repak to examine the attitudes of the nation towards online shopping and the recycling responsibilities of retailers, also revealed at least 6 in 10 (62%) buy more frequently from Irish retailers online.

Large online retailers continue to evade environmental recycling responsibility

Over 3,400 businesses, most of whom are domestic companies, are Repak Members. They bear the costs for recycling the packaging waste generated by the online retailers who choose to evade their recycling responsibility.

With 69% of consumers planning to shop online for Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals this weekend and Christmas approaching, volumes of online packaging waste will continue to be high in coming weeks. Sole responsibility will be placed on Repak’s Member network to cover the recycling costs.

According to a recent survey of Repak members2, 96% believe multinational, online retailers who do not contribute to the recycling effort in Ireland should be charged for the packaging waste they place on the Irish market. A further 96% feel large online retailers who do not contribute to the cost of recycling the packaging they place on the Irish market gain a competitive advantage.

Speaking on the issue and tackling this growing problem, Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak said: “In the last few years, some large international retailers, like Amazon, have come forward to play their part by becoming accountable for the packaging they place on the Irish market. However, there is a significant portion of overseas online retailers who continue to not contribute to the cost of recycling the packaging waste they place on the Irish market. Organisations like Sports Direct, Jack Wills, Screwfix.ie, Wish, Shein, Light in the Box, M&M Direct, Under Armour and many more are placing thousands of packages on the Irish market every week and don’t pay a penny towards the recycling costs. We are asking them to do the right thing on a voluntary bases rather than having to wait for legislation.

Unlike our Repak members, these companies significantly over package goods and have no incentive to reduce the waste they generate. They are outside the current legal system. This requires intervention from the Government, and we are pleased Minister Ryan is going to examine an appropriate mechanism, in the Programme for Government, to ensure there is fairness for all in the retail sector. This could all be avoided if online retailers delivered their corporate, social and environmental responsibilities. Legislation should not be required to do the right thing. Regardless of the uncertainty that lies ahead in the immediate future for retail trading, the volume of waste packaging being placed on the Irish market by overseas online retailers continues to significantly increase. Ignoring this situation is unsustainable long term and cannot continue.”

Regarding how consumers feel about the environmental obligations of retailers, 95% believe that overseas online stores should assume responsibility for contributing to the recycling costs of the packaging they place on the Irish market. Shoppers are calling for international online retailers to adapt to more sustainable practices and if they don’t, the cost that Irish businesses will have to bear is likely to substantially increase in coming years, as the trend for shoppers to buy online becomes increasingly popular. As it stands, Repak has revealed that the cost to collect and recycle the packaging waste of overseas online retailers is a whopping €1m per year.

The findings from the Repak consumer research also revealed that the Irish are a conscientious bunch when it comes to recycling packaging waste from online deliveries. Almost all (98%) of those polled say they take time to separate and recycle materials when each online delivery comes in. Considering that 77% say they have noticed their recycling bin has been filling up more quickly since the beginning of Covid-19, it appears for many households, the online deliveries are coming in thick and fast.

Commenting on the online retailers that choose to evade their recycling responsibilities, Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak said: “Covid-19 has brought many challenges to the retail sector, but despite this, our members have continued to do the right thing and assume responsibility for making sure the packaging waste they’re generating gets recycled correctly. Just two years ago, almost all the biggest international online retailers were not paying a cent towards Ireland’s recycling costs. Our members were left to pick up the recycling tab as a result, but that changed when Amazon decided to stand up to their environmental responsibilities. While some others have followed Amazon’s example since then, disappointingly there are too many who have not. This has to change to make sure such companies no longer avoid paying the recycling costs for the waste packaging they place on the market.

1According to a survey of 2,600 shoppers in Ireland, conducted by Repak in November 2020.

2According to a survey of 75 business owners in Ireland, conducted by Repak in November 2020.

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