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Ireland surpasses EU recycling and recovery targets in 2019

  • In 2019, the total amount of Repak funded material recovered and recycled in Ireland reached the one million tonne mark for the first time
  • Ireland is achieving a total recovery rate of 96% and a total recycling rate of 67.5%, 12.5% ahead of European targets
  • Recycling increased by 42,000 tonnes to 678,000 tonnes and recovery increased by 62,340 tonnes to 333,279

Ireland surpassed all of its EU recycling and recovery targets in 2019, achieving a total provisional forecast recovery rate of 96% and a recycling rate of 67.5%  subject to EPA verification in due course.The recycling rates were as follows: Plastic 35% (EU target: 22.5%), Paper 82% (EU target 60%), Glass 78% (EU target 60%), Metal 85% (EU target 50%) and Wood 81% (EU target 15%).

The news was announced this morning by Repak, Ireland’s only government-approved packaging recycling compliance scheme, at the launch of its 2019 Annual Report. The title of this year’s report ‘Backing our Future’ is reflective of the strategic realignment made by Repak in 2019 to ensure it is best positioned to achieve all future EU packaging recycling targets and can efficiently comply with new EU directives, such as the Waste Framework Directive and Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive, which are both under the Circular Economy Package (CEP) that is being transposed into Irish Law in July 2020, and the Single Use Packaging (SUP) Directive, due for transposition in July 2021.

Recycling and Recovery in 2019

In 2019, the total amount of Repak funded material recovered and recycled in Ireland reached the one million mark for the first time. A total of 1,008,130 tonnes of packaging waste placed on the Irish market was recovered and recycled, 103,881 tonnes more than the 2018 (11.5%) increase.

Recycling levels increased by 42,000 tonnes (7%) to 678k tonnes and recovery tonnes increased by 62,340 (23%) to 333,279 tonnes. Commercial recycling increased by 17k to 379k tonnes - a 5% increase, and household recycling increased by 25k tonnes to 299k tonnes - a 9% increase.

Commenting on a strong year for recycling and recovery rates in Ireland, CEO of Repak, Séamus Clancy said: 

“2019 was once again a strong year for Repak as we delivered for members on all key compliance objectives and surpassed all EU packaging recycling targets.

Over the last 5 years, Repak has transformed from a compliance scheme into a leading environmental organisation, successfully managing and funding the continuous growth of recycling and recovery rates across all key materials. We have demonstrated that as a Producer Responsibility Initiative, we have brought together our Members, Recovery Operators, Central Government and National Regulators to achieve the optimum recycling and recovery rates for packaging waste.

A single year 7% increase in recycling rates across all materials is a strong indicator that Ireland remains amongst the top nations in Europe for its recycling levels and I would like to take this opportunity to thank our members and the Irish public for their efforts across 2019. Ireland is continuing to incrementally grow its recycling rates across all materials, the importance of which cannot be understated. In particular, the increase in plastic recycling by 2% to 35% this year leaves us firmly on track to achieve our 2025 and 2030 EU recycling targets.”

During 2019, Repak introduced and expanded a number of initiatives to optimise the recycling and recovery of packaging waste in Ireland. These included:

Funding for the reprocessing of Irish plastic packaging waste in Ireland. This funding helped to support the re-processing of 13,781 tonnes of waste plastic packaging

Incentivised collection and recycling of plastic packaging waste from businesses which resulted in an additional 2,000 tonnes of commercial plastic packaging waste being recycled in 2019

Additional funding category was introduced for pots, tubs & trays to incentivise the separation of these materials from packaging waste streams

The 2019 annual report also provides updates on the progress made by the Plastic Packaging Recycling Strategy, principally the Repak Members’ Plastic Pledge, and Repak’s educational initiative for consumers, Team Green.

Next week, Repak will launch the 2019 progress report of its Plastic Pledge initiative, which will highlight the continued proactive approach that 115 of Ireland’s industry leaders are taking to remove avoidable plastics from their business premises and from sale. Repak’s annual Plastic Pledge report monitors and quantifies the efforts of organisations who have signed the pledge, to reduce plastic as part of Ireland’s efforts to meet obligations under the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package (CEP).

In 2019, the ‘Join Team Green’ call to action, which was led by campaign ambassadors Paul McGrath, the O'Donovan Brothers, Roz Purcell, Bobby Kerr and Anna Geary, had an audience reach of over 7.35million people through various media platforms. By the end of 2019, just under 7,000 participants had joined Team Green, with membership now exceeding 11,000 individuals, providing a platform upon which to engage all stakeholders in helping Ireland achieve our plastic recycling targets.

The 2019 annual report also recognises the ongoing actions and initiatives being undertaken by Repak to effectively manage the challenges that the European Green Deal, Circular Economy Package and Single Use Plastics Directive will bring for all Repak Members and for Ireland. Speaking on the challenges facing the Ireland’s waste management industry in the coming years, Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak said:

“There are significant challenges ahead of us as new EU recycling and sustainability policy begins to take affect and the deadlines for our recycling targets draw closer. We have been a leading nation in waste management for the last 21 years, surpassing all targets to date, but are reaching a critical juncture in policy change which demands evolution of how we manage our packaging waste and measure its impact on the environment. This is to be welcomed, but significant preparations are required to ensure we are fully complaint, something Repak is actively progressing with prudent financial planning and innovative waste management initiatives.

Facing these challenges requires Repak to manage the cost and reporting burden on behalf of our members. Our new licence application, which is currently being prepared for submission by 30 June 2020, strategically reflects how future packaging recycling targets, and plastic in particular, can be achieved in Members' best interest. We are committed to delivering Ireland’s packaging compliance scheme in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible, in what are likely to be challenging times ahead.”

Repak had a net gain of 441 members in 2019, bringing the total number of Repak members to 3,407. For more information on Repak, visit

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Team Green is 3,400 Repak Members working together for a greener Ireland. Ireland has hit every plastic recycling target since 1997. Help us reach 50% of all plastic recycled by 2025.

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