Waste not: recycling overtakes dumping
THE amount of rubbish being recycled or reused now exceeds what is being dumped in landfills, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Increased landfill levies and the opening of the country's first incinerator in Duleek, Co Meath, have accelerated the move away from dumping.
The EPA's National Waste Report shows that 2012 was the first year in the history of the State that the volume of municipal waste "recovered" through incineration and recycling exceeded that sent to landfill.
Data collected by the agency also shows Irish people produced a quarter less rubbish that year than they did in 2007.
It found each household here was generating 344kg of waste, compared with an average of 438kg across the European Union.
Although the economic downturn had an undoubted impact in lessening the amount of waste generated, changing behaviour also played a significant role.
"The data shows that Irish society is producing less waste per capita and is deriving more value from the waste it does generate through recycling and use as a fuel," said EPA programme manager Dr Jonathan Derham.
"Maximising the resource efficiency of all materials consumed is an essential aim of our transition to a sustainable economy."
The report found that 59pc of waste in Ireland was "recovered" through recycling or incineration in 2012, with the remainder disposed of.
It warned that the trend away from landfill would have to continue, with only 18 dumps remaining operational in the country, compared to over 200 in the 1980s.
Over half of this waste is going to three landfills, Drehid in Co Kildare, Ballynagran in Co Wicklow and Gortadroma in Co Limerick.
The EPA report noted that the country only had an "operational" landfill capacity of 1.6 million tonnes, equivalent to two years' demand at 2012 levels.
"Alternative treatment options must be developed as landfill capacity continues to decline," it said.
Dr Derham said the developments highlighted in the report showed huge strides had been made in recent years to address "our historically poor record on waste management".
He said: "Ireland is now one of the top EU performers in relation to waste generation per capita and in achievement of our EU waste management obligations."