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Waste Disposal: Your Complete Guide

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Waste disposal might not be the most exciting of subjects, but if done incorrectly, it can not only lead to not only unsightly messes or foul smells, but also severely damage the environment and burn a hole in your pocket. On average, Ireland produces more than 14 million tonnes of waste per year, but unfortunately, a large portion of this doesn’t get responsibly disposed of or recycled.


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Irish Waste

Waste can be a difficult subject to wrap our heads around, particularly the magnitude of waste generation. We might not think much further than which day to put the bins out on and if they are ready to bring back in yet, but the collection of our waste is really only the start of its journey. Let's take a look at a few quick statistics so that we can understand the full picture.

  • 2019 - Household waste accounts for 1.6 million tonnes
  • 2019 - 1.1 Million tonnes of waste is made up of packaging materials
  • 2019 - 70,000 Tonnes of street-cleaning and fly-tipped waste is collected
  • Irish households each throw out approximately 150kg’s of food waste each year, roughly €700 in value
  • On average 30% of the items placed in household recycling bins are items that are not correct, resulting in rejection at processing or penalty fines

That's a lot of trash!

Throughout the 2000s Ireland has seen steady improvement in its overall waste handling statistics. Municipal waste disposal started in 2001 at approximately 80% destined for landfill, and came down to just over 15%. Over the same period, municipal recycling has gone from below 10% to approximately 35%, and waste energy recovery has gone from being nonexistent to well over 40%!

image of a golden chart arrow zig zagging in an upwards direction

In 2019 alone approximately 528,000 tonnes of biodegradable waste was accepted at composting and anaerobic digestion facilities for processing. This process creates a substance called biogas, which is then sold to companies such as Bord Gais as a greener alternative to traditional fuel sources such as coal.

While these figures are encouraging and show a positive trend, the volume of waste being created each year is also increasing, meaning that though we are handling waste disposal far better than we used to, there is definitely room for future growth and improvement.

How can I Dispose of my Household Waste?

In order to reliably dispose of your household waste and recycling, you will need to choose a waste collection company. Once a plan has been agreed upon, your chosen waste provider will provide you with the waste bins included within your plan, and empty them on set days.

Typically domestic waste disposal companies will provide households with three bins as standard; a general waste bin, a recycling bin, and an organic waste bin. Depending upon the area in which you live, you may also be able to request a glass recycling bin. These bins can also come in a range of sizes depending on your household waste disposal needs.

As most waste disposal companies such as Bord na Mona, City Bin, and Wiser Bins to name but a few, only operate within set areas or counties, if you have moved home it is a good idea to have a shop around to check which companies and deals are available. Details of available companies can be found on your local authorities website.

Make sure that your waste collection company has a NWCPO permit! This is a legal requirement mandatory for all companies within the industry

What are my Waste Disposal Plan Options?

Waste collection and recycling companies may offer up to three forms of collections depending on the volume and frequency of your needs; Standard Service, Pay by Weight and Pay by Lift. Here is a brief look at all three:

Standard Service

For high waste output households. Customers are charged at a set monthly amount throughout the contract length. These plans also feature a maximum waste collection limit per year, with a penalty surcharge for every kg over the annual limit. It is important to monitor your bin-weight history to ensure that this is not exceeded.

Pay by Weight

image of a set of weighing scales with a cross on one side and a tick on the other side

Designed for households who produce a lower volume of general waste and are efficient recyclers. These plans often feature a set service surcharge for the period of service, followed by a charge for every kg collected in each bin. Each bin may have a different value per kg, with the general waste being higher due to it being of the heaviest usage, and to encourage responsible recycling.

This means that if you choose this plan, you should try to be as efficient as possible about minimizing your waste outputs and using local recycling centres to reduce your waste weight.

Pay by Lift

For those who require their waste collected very infrequently, such as once or twice per season. Pay by Lift also carries a set period service surcharge and a charge per lift. The charge per lift tends to be more expensive with this option, however, it can work out more cost-effective overall for those who work away from home throughout the week, or for holiday lets.

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Which Waste goes in which Waste Disposal or Recycling Bin?

Despite waste processing and recycling centres getting better and better at separating our waste, there will likely always be a margin of error or otherwise items that cannot be processed. The best thing that we can do to help ensure that our waste can be processed correctly, is to make sure that we are putting it in the right bins.

image of a golden manifying glass examining a text document

Waste collection companies may have slightly different requirements from each other for their bins, but on the whole, their bins follow the same general rules. It is worth checking your supplier's website and policy documentation to make sure that you are using your bins correctly, as you may be liable to a fine, or even as a last resort the refusal of service for persistent errors.

Check the table below if you are uncertain of which recycling bin you should use.

General Recycling Compost/Organic Glass
Vacuum Cleaner Contents/Dust Newspapers/General Paper & Magazines Garden Waste (Unless Chemically Contaminated) Glass Bottles of any Colour
Broken Delph Cardboard Boxes & Packaging Dead Plants & Flowers Jars
Soiled Food Tin/Steel Cans Hedge Cuttings & Grass Trimmings Non-Food Bottles, e.g. Perfume, Aftershave etc
Packaging Tetra-Pak Juice & Milk Cartons General Food Waste Without Packaging -
Contaminated Plastics & Polystyrene Plastic Bottles Coffee Grounds, Paper Filters & Teabags -
Plasters, Nappies etc Plastic Film/Soft & Rigid Plastics Cardboard & Paper if Soiled by Food -

Waste Disposal Facilities

A fantastic way to reduce your bin waste volume and collection charges is to utilize the disposal facilities in your area. If you are unsure of where your nearest facility is, you can check with your local authorities or Gov.ie for guidance. There are five primary choices depending on the type of items that you need to dispose of:

Bring Banks

These are unstaffed collection points for limited recyclable materials such as food cans, glass bottles, and unwanted clothes. Often dotted around towns and cities, these facilities are free and simple to use.

Civic Amenity Sites

Civic amenity sites fulfil a similar role to bring banks but can accept a much wider variety of waste, such as waste oil, cardboard, plastic, DIY waste, bulky items and more. In addition to this, these sites are staffed, and able to provide guidance relating to your waste disposal. However, they are not 24/7 centres, so remember to check that they are open before heading off to one.

Recycling Centres

Operating over set open hours and also staffed, these centres tend to accept a smaller variety of items than the amenity centres and do not accept bulky items such as Christmas trees or sofas.

WEEE Centres (Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment)

image of a golden oven representing white goods

WEEE centres specialize in the processing and recycling of items with electrical components. It is especially important to use these facilities for your old electronics as many of them contain materials or substances that can be highly damaging to the environment if not disposed of correctly. A few examples of products accepted at these sites include:

  • Batteries
  • Fridges, freezers and white goods
  • Electronic tools such as drills
  • Lighting equipment such as fluorescent lamps

Landfill

Although modern landfills must take precautions to avoid causing environmental damage via chemicals entering the earth, vermin infestations, and odour problems, it should still be viewed as a last resort for your waste disposal needs. It is advisable to thoroughly research your disposal options to make sure that your waste can be recycled and reused rather than stored within the ground. Additionally, landfill sites sometimes charge an admittance fee.

Waste Disposal Plans and Projects

image of a golden globe with a dotted ring around it

The Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy is Irelands roadmap for waste management and planning. Launched in 2020, this plan effectively has one core goal: to ensure that when raw materials enter the economy, they are reused and recycled as many times as possible before disposal, thus reducing the prevalence and damaging effects of single-use items and unnecessary waste disposal.

Alongside those goals, this plan also aims to provide education and awareness campaigns to improve consumer knowledge, to ensure that all packaging is recyclable by 2030, and to expand the role of local authorities to address waste disposal challenges and issues.

Interested in doing a bit more for the Environment?

If you would like to go above and beyond to do your bit for Ireland, there are many local and national schemes that may be of interest to you. The An Taisce National Spring Clean is a nationwide anti-litter campaign that takes place throughout April. In 2021 alone, 5,548 groups of volunteers registered to carry out cleanups, and collected a whopping estimated 2,800 tonnes of litter!

All you have to do to participate, is head over to the national spring clean website, register your details, complete the online forms, receive your equipment packs through the post, and grab a few friends to help make your area that bit greener.

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