All plastic packaging waste including soft plastics can now be placed in household recycling bins, in a radical overhaul of waste management in Ireland.
From this week, all permitted waste collection companies are required to take and sort soft plastic packaging waste, provided it is “clean, dry and loose”, The Irish Times reports.
Soft plastics can be scrunched in the hand, and include crisp bags, sweet wrappers, bread wrappers and various types of plastic film.
Placing soft plastics in mixed dry recyclable bins was prohibited in 2017, due to high levels of contamination and poor recycling infrastructure.
The move coincides with a major scaling-up of plastic recycling capacity in the country, with a significant amount of plastics to be recycled in Ireland for the first time.
Two plastics recycling facilities in Limerick and Portlaoise, backed by a €10 million investment by the Repak recycling company, will process one billion plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles a year.
Of the more than 320,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste produced in Ireland in 2020, only 94,000 tonnes of mostly hard plastic was recycled.
Due to poor infrastructure, large volumes were exported for processing overseas or burned.
The changes to the system come as a result of EU requirements to bring about a “circular economy” and curb plastic pollution, and new recycling targets up to 2030.
Currently in Ireland, we recycle less than a third of all plastic packaging waste
Minister of State with special responsibility for the Circular Economy, Ossian Smyth, said: “This is a significant and very positive development in Irish recycling and waste management.
“Soft plastics have been added to the household recycling list due to advancements in technology at Irish recycling facilities.
“Currently in Ireland, we recycle less than a third of all plastic packaging waste. We have committed to increasing our plastic packaging recycling figure to 50 per cent by 2025 and 55 per cent by 2030. Today’s announcement is a significant step towards achieving these targets.”
Repak chief executive Séamus Clancy said infrastructure improvements since will result in “more and better” recycling.
Mr Clancy said soft plastics alone account for circa 160,000 tonnes and “attainment of plastic targets is not achievable without soft plastics being accepted in both household and commercial mixed dry recyclable bins”.