EPA publishes national criteria for recycled aggregates

  • Construction waste is Ireland’s largest waste stream, and current recycling rates are too low.
  • Implementation of new national end-of-waste criteria will reduce construction waste going to landfills, and increase recycling rates.
  • Use of end-of-waste criteria for recycled aggregates will support green procurement in the built environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published National End-of-Waste Criteria for Recycled Aggregates. The criteria apply to aggregates recycled from construction and demolition waste, including soil and stone, concrete, bricks and ceramics. These criteria will allow for the safe reclassification of recycled aggregates from a waste to a product, which can be subsequently placed on the market.

There is a strong demand for recycled aggregates in Ireland to support development of new infrastructure with a low carbon footprint. The criteria allow for the replacement of virgin aggregates with recycled aggregates, in uses such as general fill, road construction, railway ballast and other non-structural uses.

Keeping materials in use is one of the fundamental elements of a circular economy. These criteria support and facilitate increased recycling in the construction, demolition and waste sectors.

Commenting on the criteria, Micheál Lehane, Director of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Sustainability, said:

“The publication of national end-of-waste criteria for recycled aggregates is a significant milestone for both the EPA and industry. The criteria will help tackle construction waste, the largest waste stream in the country and support the development of markets for recyclable materials. This is the type of progress which is needed if Ireland is to move in a meaningful way from the linear to the circular economy.”

End-of-waste criteria for recycled aggregates will also support national green procurement ambitions. A publicly-available register on the EPA website will enable buyers to confidently choose a registered supplier of quality recycled aggregates. 

Warren Phelan, Programme Manager of the EPA’s Circular Economy Programme noted:

“The publication of the criteria show the EPA’s commitment to streamlining the regulation of secondary products. This represents a shift away from the assessment of case-by-case applications to a national criteria available to all authorised producers. These criteria will introduce a level playing field for industry and introduce a single set of rules that are easy to implement.”

The EPA calls on industry and the waste sector to now adopt, implement and build upon the criteria established.

Further information on the national end-of-waste criteria and other initiatives of the circular economy programme are available on the EPA website

The EPA is the competent authority with regard to making decisions on end-of-waste status and by-product status.

Waste is a material which has been discarded.

End-of-waste refers to a process where material which is recovered or recycled from waste ceases to be a waste. End-of-waste criteria specify when certain waste ceases to be waste and become a product, often referred to as a secondary product or secondary raw material. The  recycling/ recovery of material from waste is a waste activity. Accordingly, any producer of end-of-waste material must hold an appropriate waste authorisation.

The published national criteria serve to meet the following targets set out in the 2021, Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy:

  • Streamline the end-of-waste application and decision-making process. This will encourage greater use of the process by industry and assist in meeting Ireland’s recycling targets, thereby reducing pressure on waste disposal and recovery infrastructure;
  • Obtain end-of-waste status for a number of priority waste streams, particularly in the C&D sector.

Further works are ongoing by the EPA to develop national by-product criteria in regard to Construction & Demolition sector for soil & stone and site-won asphalt (road planings).

by-product is a substance or object, resulting from a production process, the primary aim of which is not the production of that item. By-product sits within the top tier “prevention” of the waste hierarchy. By-products are never considered waste. 

Further information in relation to end-of-waste is available on the EPA website.

Further information in relation to by-products is also available on the EPA website.

Circular economy: A circular economy is one where materials, including packaging, are recirculated and used again and again, and waste is minimised. To facilitate the move to a more circular economy, the European Commission put forward a Circular Economy Package in December 2015, which includes revised legislative proposals on waste, as well as a comprehensive Action Plan. The Irish Government published a new national waste policy, A Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, in September 2021.

Recycling means any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations.

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