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Plastic recycling and your business


In 2018, the European Union updated a number of directives covering waste, as part of its overall Circular Economy Package. As a result of these changes, the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) was amended, with higher targets for packaging resuse and recycling to help increase recycling rates for all packaging placed on the market across Europe. 

In 2020, the Irish Government published an amendment to SI 282/2014 - European Union (Packaging) Regulations 2014. This amendment (S.I No. 322/2020) increased recycling targets for packaging in line with the new European legislation. As a result Ireland's recycling targets for 2025 and 2030 have increased for packaging overall, as well as for each of the individual packaging materials placed on the Irish market. 

A challenge for Ireland

At present Ireland meets all of the previous EU targets set in the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive. In fact, we already exceed 2025 targets for Wood (69%) and Paper & Cardboard (84%). In the case of glass recycling, we already exceed our 2030 targets with a current recycling rate of 86%.

However, the new plastic packaging recycling targets will be more challenging for Ireland to meet and present an opportunity for Ireland to change the way in which we manage these often complex materials, which currently have a recycling rate of 31%. To achieve the new EU targets of 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030 will require a dramatic change by all stakeholders in order to capture more of this material. This will require behavioural change amongst consumers, changes to how the materials are handled by businesses and treated by the waste industry, as well as investments in local plastic recycling infastructure here in Ireland. 

The business opportunity 

As organisation with an environmental social mission, we fund the recycling of packaging waste in order to help Ireland meet its packaging recycling targets. In 2020, we saw a 3.5% decline in the tonnes of backdoor plastic packaging waste funded versus 2019. This is most often due to poor waste segregation practices on site as a result of:

  • Recyclable plastic packaging being discarded in business general waste bins.
  • Material being too contaminated when placed in a recycling bin, making it unsuitable for recycling.
  • Waste collection infrastructure or services that do not meet the current needs of the businesses.

Although this decline is a concern, it also presents a significant opportunity to increase plastic packaging recycling rates, given that almost 50% of all packaging waste generated in Ireland arises at commercial premises.

What can your business do? Your legal obligations

First of all, it is important to note that there are legal obligations on Irish businesses when it comes to the segregation of packaging waste. Regulation 5 of the European Union (Packaging) Regulations 2014 as amended states that:

  • Producers should ensure that packaging waste is separated at source, by material type.
  • Packaging waste should be collected by a contractor for the purposes of recycling.

It is important, therefore, that your business is segregating all recyclable packaging. Plastic packaging materials such as plastic pallet wrap, shrink hoods, case wrap and pallet sheets should be separated from other types of waste. If in doubt about what your waste contractor will accept in the recycling bin or in bales, ask them for their assistance. It is also essential that these recyclable materials are kept as clean and dry as possible, so that they are suitable for recycling at the point of collection.

What you should expect from your waste contractor

Waste contractors have a significant role to play in helping you to maximise recycling at your premises. It is, therefore, critical to ensure that they are providing the following offering :

1. At least a three bin service for recycling (General Waste, Organic Waste and Mixed Dry Recycling).

2. Support in order to source segregate by material where possible, such as through baling of plastic film, bottles and the separation of other recyclable items such as drums or barrels. These items are usually manufactured from highly recyclable plastics such as Polyethylene (LDPE or HDPE), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) or Polypropylene (PP).

3. A breakdown of what the waste contractor is doing with your waste, showing:

  • what materials are being recycled,
  • what materials are being recovered or disposed,
  • food waste collected,
  • the associated cost of all of the above.

This can usually be provided on a monthly basis and can help you track trends over the year to see how well you are managing and any further improvements that might be needed. The more material that is being recycled, the lower the cost. In fact, it is important to note that source segregated material that has been baled is often collected free of charge.

What to do if there are any shortfalls in the current arrangements

If you are having challenges achieving good segregation on site due to the bins or balers you currently have, it is important to engage with your waste contractor, who can advise on how you improve this and implement the changes within an agreed timeframe. It is also important to note that improvements in recycling rates will not only help the environment but can reduce costs for your business.

Evaluate and review your waste services on a regular basis. A list of our Repak Registered Recovery Operators is available by clicking here. If you need any additional support, you can also contact our packaging services team here at Repak at or call us on (01) 4670190.