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Ireland surpasses all EU recycling targets in 2022

In 2022, Repak surpassed all EU mandated recycling targets and delivered on all key compliance, communication and financial objectives. This was supported by the successful implementation of key policies from the EU Circular Economy Package including Eco Fee Modulation and Net Necessary Cost models for all materials. 

News that Repak and Ireland surpassed all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2022 was announced at the publishing of Repak’s annual report this morning. The report, titled ‘Packaging Today. Reimagined for Tomorrow’, confirmed Repak delivered on all key targets and objectives for Members, and continued education and advocacy on behalf of the Members and wider stakeholders. 

Despite significant positive progress being made by Repak Members and consumers across all recycling targets for key materials, Repak also announced this morning that current projections forecast Ireland’s plastic recycling rate will fall short of the 2025 50% target set by the EU. 

Speaking on the performance for the Irish waste industry in 2022 and Ireland’s future plastic recycling targets, CEO of Repak, Séamus Clancy said:  

“Despite persistently demanding operational conditions in 2022, the Waste Packaging Recycling Sector demonstrated exceptional efficiency and unity, ensuring uninterrupted service, and delivering outstanding results across all materials. Our collaboration with stakeholders has been instrumental in Repak's continued success, and we extend our gratitude to the Department of the Environment Climate & Communications (DECC), Environmental Protection Agency, Local Authorities, Regional Planning Offices, and the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities for their invaluable support.

However, it must be stated that meeting the 2025 plastic packaging recycling targets is going to be particularly challenging. All materials, apart from plastic, are forecasted to hit the 2025 targets. We at Repak continue to implement EU Circular economy policies designed to achieve future recycling targets in a financially prudent and innovative manner. Repak members more than pull their weight by funding the recycling of 100% of the packaging they generate in Ireland and an additional 58,649 (8%) tonnes from other producers. All stakeholders across the waste industry sector must continue to act in the national interest and re-double efforts to achieve 2025 and 2030 recycling targets.

To close the plastic recycling gap, we are today calling on businesses to embrace best practice recycling process. As examples, from the 1st July 2023 businesses must legally have three bins at their commercial backdoor to help with proper segregation of their packaging. The proper use of these bins by all businesses will help close the gap. We’re also calling for legislative changes: exporters need to be held responsible for 100% of the back door waste they generate and online retailers must start paying for the packaging they place on the Irish market. Positive legislative changes which hold organisations accountable will improve plastic recycling rates in Ireland and help close the gap to our EU targets.”

Recycling and Recovery in 2022

In 2022, Repak and Ireland achieved a recycling rate of 63% and recovery rate of 95%.
Repak funded the recycling and recovery of 1,115,042 tonnes of packaging material – surpassing the one million tonnage mark for the fourth time. 759,149 tonnes in total were recycled in 2022 - a 6% increase on 2021. 

All key materials surpassed current EU recycling targets: Glass at 85% (EU target 60%). Paper/Cardboard 75%, (EU target 60%). Plastic 33% (EU target 22.5%). Wood 66% (EU target 15%). Metal 69% (EU target 50%). All materials, apart from plastic are forecasted to hit the 2025 targets. 

Plastic Recycling: Ireland’s overall plastic recycling rate increased from 31% in 2021 to 33% in 2022. Total plastic tonnes recycled in 2022 increased by 7,600 from 2021 to 104,012 . It marks the first time that plastic tonnes recycled in Ireland has broken the 100,000-tonnage mark.

An additional €3.4m was spent on recycling plastic tonnes by Repak in 2022. Overall funding increased by 16% (€4.7m) to €34m, reflecting increased volumes of packaging materials being recycled, and increased funding for plastic recycling in Ireland.

Household recycling: 2022 saw an unsurpassed performance in the increase of recycling from the household (consumers) sector. This evidence proves that the re-introduction of all plastics in the household mixed dry recyclables (MDR) bin was the correct and indeed necessary decision to drive recycling. Household plastic recycling increased by 9,000 tonnes with overall household recycling levels remaining stable at 335,000 tonnes. Repak also funded the recovery of 356,000 tonnes of packaging – an increase of 54,000 tonnes on 2021 – diverting more materials from landfill. 

Recycling policy developments 

During 2022, Repak led a number of key initiatives to ensure that Ireland continues to optimise its recycling of all packaging materials.The development and Implementation of the Eco Fee Modulation (EFM) and Net Necessary Cost (NNC) models for all materials managed by Repak in 2022 marked a significant step towards promoting sustainable packaging practices. These models were initially introduced for recycled and non-recycled plastics and composites in 2021, but were expanded to include paper, metals, glass, and wood in 2022. The purpose of these fees is to incentivise businesses and individuals to reduce their packaging waste and adopt more sustainable alternatives.

Repak's Packaging Design Guide has been instrumental in promoting environmentally friendly packaging solutions and driving behavioural and design changes among its Members. The Plastic Pledge Report serves as a tool to assess the impact of the Plastic Pledge Initiative, tracking progress in reducing plastic waste and adopting sustainable packaging options. Together with the introduction of EFM, these initiatives have fostered a positive shift towards more sustainable packaging practices, contributing to the larger goal of reducing waste and minimising environmental impact.

Speaking on the future of recycling and recovery in Ireland and recognising the current economic climate for Members, CEO of Repak, Seamus Clancy, said: 

“We are committed to managing your packaging scheme in an environmentally responsible and cost-efficient manner, especially during these challenging times. Applying the principle of circularity is a crucial step towards achieving sustainability. By optimising the use of resources, reducing waste, and promoting recycling and reuse, we can together contribute to a more sustainable and efficient packaging system for Ireland.”

Increased membership 

The number of Repak Members increased from 3,431 in 2021 to 3,481 in 2022. Member numbers increase to 3,673 when Authorised Representative and Green Dot Members are included. 

To read Repak’s annual report in full click here.