Northern Ireland launches consultation on future of recycling

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has launched a consultation on the future of recycling in the country as it seeks to reach a 65 per cent recycling rate by 2035.

Launched on Friday (26 June), the consultation invites public discussion on the ‘Future Recycling and Separation of Waste of a Household Nature in Northern Ireland’, which should be read in conjunction with a report from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on municipal recycling potential in Northern Ireland.

Open co-mingled recycling binThe DAERA consultation will cover a range of proposals for recycling strategy in several areas, including business food waste, household food waste, segregating waste, and maximising business recycling while alleviating cost burden.

Outlined in its report, Daera is proposing the increase of non-household food waste collections and recycling from businesses and other organisations. Proposals for households include restricting residual waste levels to divert more materials towards recycling, a core set of dry recyclable materials to be collected by all Northern Irish councils, and increased transparency of information on the end-of-destination for household recycling.

WRAP’s report on municipal recycling potential in Northern Ireland points out that recycling could increase by 110,000 tonnes through new kerbside collection schemes and Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), with residual waste restrictions and separate food waste collections being the biggest potential sources of this increase. Source-separated collections of recycling, a practice that councils were urged to adopt by recycling company Bryson Recycling last year, could also increase recycling rates.

Having achieved a 50 per cent recycling rate in 2018/19 – reaching the EU’s 50 per cent recycling target for 2020 ahead of schedule – DAERA is now keen to press on to the 2035 target of 65 per cent as included in the EU’s Circular Economy Package, though it is unclear whether the UK will maintain this target once it leaves the EU, and make progress to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Commenting on the consultation, Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: “This is an extremely important discussion document to ensure we increase recycling and maximise how we use and add value to our waste. Using waste well and using it again and again creates jobs, creates high-quality, low-cost recycled packaging and keeps waste out of our environment and in our economy.

“People in Northern Ireland have really embraced recycling and at a quicker pace than the rest of the UK – recycling over 50 per cent of their household waste, 18 months ahead of our own and European targets. It’s an impressive milestone and one that I know that we can improve upon. But if we are to encourage householders and businesses to recycle more, and indeed ask them to use recycled products, we have to first understand what will make it easier, what the barriers are and how we can help. That’s what this consultation sets out to do.

“This year businesses will see changes in how their waste is managed. In particular, businesses that produce mixed waste and waste which is similar in nature and composition to waste from households, such as paper, metal, plastic and glass, will be required to present their waste for recycling and ensure it is separated.  Therefore it’s also critical that we hear from businesses to understand how we can help them recycle more, reduce their waste and use their waste better.

“The consultation is seeking views on a range of proposals, which will help shape the landscape of waste management in Northern Ireland and I would encourage as many responses as possible.”

The consultation will be running between 26 June and 4 October 2020. More detailed information about the consultation and how to respond can be found on the DAERA website.