Plastic Recycling must grow by 80% to hit new EU targets – Repak

Repak Launch New Plastic Packaging Strategy- Key Highlights:


  • Ireland has surpassed every packaging recycling target in the last 20 years however stringent new EU targets mean plastic recycling must go from 98,000 tonnes to 175,000 tonnes by 2030
  • The plastic challenge is one of our biggest environmental challenges and will require attitudinal change by all stakeholders
  • Repak Members commit to a ‘Plastic Pledge’ to meet targets and eliminate the use of non-recyclable plastics. 
  • 20% of plastics in Ireland still ending up in landfill or incineration
  • 87,0000 tonnes of contaminated material is still ending up in the recycling bin which prevents it from being recycled


Ireland must increase its plastic packaging recycling by as much as 80% by 2030 if it is to meet strict EU targets on plastic recycling according to Repak, which says the move will require a ‘major social attitudinal change to plastic use, reuse and recycling’.


The packaging recycling body today launched its Repak Plastic Packaging Recycling Strategy 2018-2030 and is calling on the government to urgently establish a plastics working group to oversee the transition to greater recycling.

Under the European Commission’s plan, Ireland must increase its plastic packaging recycling from over 98,000 tonnes today to 175,000 tonnes by 2030. This will have to be done while both the economy and population are growing, something that will be a ‘monumental’ challenge to society according to Repak.

The report insists Ireland must move away from the ‘take – make – use and dispose’ method of consuming plastics and needs to make recycling and reusing plastic, regular behaviour across society. It predicts that a dramatic reduction in plastic consumption is unlikely to be achieved in the short-term and therefore changing how we use and reuse plastics is the new goal.


The report highlights that despite a very strong plastic recycling performance in Ireland of 36%, which is well in excess of the current EU targets, 20% of our plastics are still ending up in landfills or being incinerated. The report also shows that 87,000 tonnes of non-recyclable content is ending up in recycling bins and is preventing plastic material from being recycled due to contamination. Contamination is when non-recyclable materials are placed into the recycling bin and this can be as high as 40% in some urban areas. While around 40% of all the plastic that is produced is used to protect and preserve products, such as food, most of this packaging gets thrown away immediately and not all of it is recyclable.

Key actions recommended in the report are that government would establish a plastic packaging working group with terms of reference and for Repak to review its member’s fee structure so that placing items that are easier to recycle on the market will be incentivised. It recommends that a national communications committee be established between waste collectors so that messaging on how to recycle is co-ordinated throughout the country.

Significantly, the document proposes a ‘Plastic Pledge’ for Repak member companies, committing producers to reducing their complex packaging, using more recyclable material in their packaging and embracing eco-design when introducing new products.  The report also recommends the establishment of an eco-design workshop for new plastic products as 80% of the sustainability of a plastic product comes from the design.


Speaking at the launch of the plan, Séamus Clancy Repak’s CEO, said: “This is something that will require a monumental social change in attitudes to plastic use. Our take, make-use-dispose attitude to plastic cannot continue into the future and will have to be replaced with a more circular, recycle and reuse approach.

The challenge is similar to what was required with the approach to the plastic bag levy and requires behavioural change. Everybody along the waste supply chain will have to play their part including government, producers of packaging, the consumer, waste recovery operators and Repak itself.

This document outlines 35 key actions that should kick-start the process of achieving an 80% increase in the volume of plastic recycling in Ireland. Ireland’s current plastic recycling rate is 36% which is well above the current EU target of 22.5% and Repak members can take credit for that. However, one in every five tonnes of plastics is still ending up in landfill in Ireland and 25% of all content ending up in green bins is not actually recyclable. This makes achieving this target even more challenging.

The Plastic Pledge is highly significantWe’ll be encouraging our Repak members to sign up to our ‘Plastic Pledge’ thus showing that they’re committed to tackling plastic packaging waste. This will involve making reductions to the level of complex packaging, using easier-to- recycle material for packaging and embracing new packaging designs in the future.”

The 48-page document contains 35 proposed actions and highlights the significant challenges in meeting the 2030 targets. It acknowledges that the issue is complex and that there are gaps in the information between the EPA Plastics Packaging Waste Data and Repak’s member data, requiring a new and dynamic policy environment.

Repak’s plan aims to assist Ireland in meeting its EU targets and support the circular economy in a cost-effective manner while promoting the design and production of plastic products that optimises use and recycling. Repak estimates that it will require €200 million of investment across the public and private sectors to achieve the recycling targets over the period of the strategy.

The two-phase plastics strategy prioritises better design of plastics packaging, increased reuse and recycling, advocates for better consumer education and calls for improved data flows and evidence.

Phase 1 (2018 to 2020) proposes that all stakeholders should work on closing information gaps and adopt a framework for implementable actions. Phase 2 (2021-2030) will see Repak publish a fully-costed revised detailed strategy recommending further measures to meet the targets, based on further evidence based on evidence gather in the initial phase.


The Plan can be read in full here



Key Actions/Recommendations:

  1. Government should establish a plastic packaging working group and develop terms of reference.
  2. Repak members to deliver on a plastic pledge to take the actions required to meet the targets over twelve years through reducing complex packaging, greater use of recyclable materials and embracing eco design.
  1. Repak to incentivise easier-to-recycle plastics through new producer fee structure.
  2. Identifying how to address the data gaps: There are discrepancies between Repak’s data and the EPA’s data  quantifying plastic waste. There is  no monitoring system in Ireland for the re-use of plastic material.
  3. Prioritise the recycling of plastics under the national waste prevention programme.
  4. Establish an eco-design working group to provide leadership and advice on key packaging design issues.
  5. Identify the areas where plastics are not being collected effectively – apartment buildings/office complexes.
  6. Review the appropriate waste collection systems that will develop the best reuse and recycling targets while reducing litter.
  7. Develop guidance on the end-of-life of biodegradable plastic packaging products.
  8. Review the subsidy rate for plastic types – How can we incentivise more easily recyclable material within the retail supply chain?
  9. Establish a national communications advisory panel to ensure streamlined communications across the waste system.


Key Facts on plastics in Ireland from the report:

  • 275,510 tonnes of plastic are placed on the Irish market each year of which 98,238 (36%) are recycled. The recycling amount is the equivalent of almost 5,000 40ft shipping containers of plastics.
  • Approximately 40% of all packaging produced is used to ensure food safety and reduce food waste.
  • One quarter of the material ending up in the green bins from households and business cannot be recycled
  • Plastic packaging waste is managed in Ireland as follows:

35.7% is recycled,

44% is used in recovery as a fossil fuel replacement as it cannot be recycled due to contamination and

20.3% ends up in landfill through the black bin or street bin.

This means that while landfill use has massively decreased one in five tonnes of plastic packaging waste in Ireland still ends up in landfill.

  • 87,000 tonnes of non-recyclable material end up in green bins.

About Repak

Repak is a producer responsibility initiative and not for profit company set up by Irish business and owned by its members. Repak charges producer fees to its members in accordance with the amount and type of packaging they place on the Irish market. These fees are used to subsidise the collection and recovery of waste packaging through registered recovery operators across Ireland – so that the individual member companies are exempt from this requirement. Repak is approved under licence by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, to operate as a compliance scheme for packaging recovery. Since Repak was set up in 1997 packaging recycling in Ireland has grown from a very low base to the point where Ireland is now one of the leading recycling countries in the EU.

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