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Ireland surpasses all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2021

Posted on: 08 Aug 2022

Despite continued challenging conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Repak surpassed all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2021 and successfully progressed the implementation of key legislative requirements across the Circular Economy Package, Single Use Plastics Directives, and the Programme for Government.


The news that Repak have surpassed all EU recycling and recovery targets for the 24th consecutive year was revealed in their annual report, ‘Environmental Responsibility in a Circular Economy’. The report confirmed Repak delivered on all key compliance, waste management, educational and financial objectives. In 2021, Repak achieved an overall recycling rate of 66% and recovery rate of 96%, surpassing EU targets set at 65% for recycling and 75% for recovery.


In 2021, Repak funded the recycling and recovery of 1,020,580 tonnes of packaging material, surpassing the one million mark for the third time. Overall, recycling rates increased by 15,639 tonnes (2.2%) to 718,683 tonnes. The increased rate of recycling was primarily driven by households (4% increase). Repak funded the recovery of 302,000 tonnes of packaging, a decrease of 33,000 tonnes (10%) on 2020, which was due to the diverting of more material to recycling.


Plastic recycled and funded by Repak amounted to 96,412 tonnes, an 8% increase on 2020. The overall plastic recycling rate in the year increased from 29% to 31%. In 2021, Repak funded an additional €3.8m funding for the certified recycling of plastic packaging. This was targeted funding – applicable only to tonnes recycled above 2020 activity levels. The industry responded very positively to this support, recycling an additional 7,291 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2021.


All key materials surpassed current EU recycling targets: Glass 86% (EU target 60%), Metal 71% (EU target 50%), Paper 84% (EU target 60%), Plastic 31% (EU target: 22.5%), Wood 69% (EU target 15%). Paper was also up on 2020, with an additional 5,757 tonnes being recycled in 2021. Glass (6,361 tonnes) and steel (1,827 tonnes) showed a small drop-off on 2020, with prolonged closures caused by Covid-19 for businesses during the year being the main reason and in line with expectations due to the pandemic.


“2021 was another year of major challenges for our members, recovery operators and the staff of Repak in managing the pandemic,” noted Séamus Clancy, Repak CEO. “However, once again I am pleased to announce that despite the continuation of difficult operational conditions, the Waste Packaging Recycling Sector operated efficiently and in unison to ensure continuity of service, resulting in positive results across key materials in 2021.”


Ireland has been a leading nation in waste management for the last 23 years, surpassing all targets to date, according to Clancy, who warned that we are now reaching a critical juncture: “Policy created to achieve future recycling targets is now being implemented and this demands an evolution of how we manage our packaging waste. To date, excellent progress has been made in implementing key legislative requirements and this is with thanks to the significant work done by Repak to progress policy in a financially prudent and innovative manner.” To read Repak’s annual report in full, visit www.repak.ie