This article outlines current recycling definitions and details, with reference to the EU waste framework directive.

Waste framework directive

The revised Waste Framework Directive (“WFD”) of November 2008 seeks to position the EU as a ‘recycling society’, with broad aims “to avoid waste generation and to use waste”.

Decoupling economic growth from the environmental impacts associated with waste generation is a key objective of the WFD.

Recycling is defined in the WFD as “any recovery operation, by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes”. 

The aim is to increase materials resource efficiency by promoting recycling of waste based on a life cycle approach which balances consumption and production. The WFD has set 2020 recycling (including preparing for reuse) targets for waste from households, and for construction and demolition waste. 

The EU WFD ‘Waste from Household’ recycling target

The WFD states that “by 2020, the preparing for re-use and the recycling of waste materials such as at least paper, metal, plastic and glass from households and possibly from other origins as far as these waste streams are similar to waste from households, shall be increased to a minimum of overall 50 % by weight.” 

The most recent data submitted to Europe from Northern Ireland was for 2018 and shows a ‘waste from household’ recycling rate of 47.7% (up from 42.1% in 2015 and 40.7% in 2012).

The full UK statistics are at the UK statistics on waste section of the UK government web-site.

Anaerobic digestion and recycling

This policy position statement sets out the circumstances when anaerobic digestion of waste in Northern Ireland is considered as recycling for use in calculations for European Union (EU) recycling targets.

Future Recycling and Separate Collection of Waste of a Household Nature in Northern Ireland

In 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) sought views on a public discussion document which covered the potential options to help improve resource management in Northern Ireland (NI).

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