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NI landfills see 12.7% increase in waste, despite targets for 65% of rubbish to be recycled by 2035


Environment Minister Edwin Poots

Environment Minister Edwin Poots

Environment Minister Edwin Poots

Landfills in Northern Ireland have seen a 12.7% increase of waste between 2020 and 2021, which waste management companies say is “not the right direction” for the region to be heading in if we wish to meet recycling targets set for 2035.

The Northern Ireland municipal waste management statistics lay out the waste flow data as collected by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

During July to September 2021, data showed that 52.6% of waste collected by councils was sent for recycling, similar to the recycling rate for July to September 2020.

Joseph Doherty, managing director of Newry-based Re-Gen Waste said that while this statistic is “good”, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a “fall back” of recycling in in the last year and the numbers are “well below the Executive’s target of 65% recycling by 2035”.

Household waste accounted for 88.7% of all rubbish collected during this period, and just over a fifth of waste items were sent for energy recovery.

Energy recovery is the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through a variety of processes.

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Almost 130,000 tonnes of local authority collected (LAC) municipal waste were sent to landfills between April and September last year.

The latest statistics also show a quarterly landfill rate of 23.7%, higher than the 21.6% recorded during the same quarter of 2020.

Indaver is the European waste management company behind plans to invest £240m in modern waste infrastructure across six NI councils in the north east.

Jackie Keaney from the firm said: “These latest figures provide further evidence of a number of worrying trends in Northern Ireland waste management.

"If we are to meet agreed climate change and circular economy targets, we need to stop burying our waste and our heads in the ground about this issue.

"It is abundantly clear that we need to deliver critical waste infrastructure here in Northern Ireland to achieve this, rather than continue to landfill our black bin waste or rely on similar facilities abroad,” she continued.

“We support and agree with the recently published draft Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland which recognises that ‘too much of our waste is exported each year to become someone else’s opportunity to recycle into higher-value material, generate energy; or unfortunately in some cases, to become someone else’s disposal problem.’

"It also clearly states that ‘we will need to invest in and develop a more coherent, robust and resilient waste management system for the whole of the region.’

"While the latest Investment Strategy reiterates the policy objectives of various plans and strategies over many years, these are only empty promises if they are not backed up by action.

"Now is the time for that action and to deliver the critical waste infrastructure that Northern Ireland clearly needs…we have no time to waste.”

The news comes shortly after Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots revealed that over four million single-use plastic (SUP) items are thrown away every week in Northern Ireland - with the majority ending up in landfill sites or the sea.

Breaking down the figures earlier this month, Mr Poots said over 1.3m SUP cups and 3m SUP food containers are dumped.

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