Waste prevention and recycling

This article outlines current waste prevention strategy and programmes, 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. Waste prevention is important to optimising resource efficiency across all waste streams and is at the top of the waste hierarchy.

It is followed by preparing for re-use, recycling, other recovery and disposal, in descending order of environmental preference.

The WFD defines preparing for re-use activity as “checking, cleaning or repairing products without further pre-processing”. Re-use not only diverts waste from landfill but also contributes to significant carbon savings when compared with recycling.

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.

Waste prevention programme

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has published “The Waste Prevention Programme for Northern Ireland – Stopping Waste in its Tracks". The programme can be accessed through the link below and encompasses a range of policies and actions which will be beneficial to the environment and the economy.

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.

Northern Ireland Kerbside Waste Composition Survey

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) commissioned a study of the composition of household waste collected at the kerbside in Northern Ireland. 

The aim was to determine overall waste composition, individual material capture rates and the extent to which recyclable or compostable materials are being disposed of in the residual waste stream. 

In addition, this report examines what has changed since 2007 in what we throw away in the residual waste stream, and the biodegradability of each waste stream for Northern Ireland.

This project report comes in two parts:

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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