Householders can now place all plastic packaging into the household recycling bin - once it is clean dry and loose. This includes both soft and rigid plastics everything from a plastic bottle to the plastic film on fruit packs!
This is a welcome development, as currently in Ireland we recycle less than one third of all our of plastic packaging. A big percentage of our plastic waste now ends up in the general household bin, and unless this plastic packaging is collected and separated, it will never be recycled. Collecting soft and rigid plastics in the household recycling bin is a big step towards separating available recyclable plastics that are currently being sent to landfill and energy recovery.
2018 Irish data show us that of the 264,000 tonnes of plastic packaging generated, we only recycled 82,000. To achieve targets for plastics of 50% by 2025, and 55% by 2030, the recycling of plastics in Ireland will have to increase.
In recent years, there have been many improvements in the technology used for plastic recycling. For example, some Irish recycling facilities now use state of the art optical sorting equipment that can identify different plastic types based on reflection and refraction of light beams, which has increased the opportunity to recycle more plastics. This coupled with continued advancements in technology and the emergence of new markets for different plastic types will also play an important role in plastic recycling into the future.
Currently, any non-recyclable plastics can be converted to a Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) which is used in cement kilns. This replaces fossil fuels, which has a positive impact in terms of lower greenhouse gas emissions.
By putting all clean dry loose plastic packaging into the recycling bin we can ensure that no recyclable plastic inadvertently ends up in landfill. As technology improves and more types of plastic can be recycled, recycling system will be able to sort and pick them up without delay.
These simple change to our recycling habits can therefore have an impact on our recycling rates. It will now be much easier for householders to sort waste – remembering, that all clean, dry and loose plastic packaging, both soft and rigid, can go into our recycling bins.