All clean plastic packaging waste including soft plastic can now be placed in Irish household recycling bins.

Minister of State for the Circular Economy Ossian Smyth TD said soft plastic can be placed in the household recycling bin along with "rigid" plastic.

Soft plastics, such as wrappers and plastic bags, have been added to the household recycling list due to advancements in technology at Irish recycling facilities.

"Currently in Ireland we recycle less than a third of all plastic packaging waste. We have committed to increasing our plastic packaging recycling figure to 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030.

"Today's announcement is a significant step towards achieving these targets," said Minister Smyth.

Pauline McDonogh, Spokesperson for MyWaste, a website for guidance on managing waste, said allowing soft plastic into recycling bins would make waste segregation much more straight forward for the householder.

She said many recycling facilities have installed optical sorting equipment which can identify different ploymers.

She said advancements have been made to the technology that segregates the different material types in recycling facilities.

The recyclable plastic is sent to specialised recycling facilities, or if it cannot be recycled it will be used as fuel for cement kilns instead of fossil fuels.

Householders can now place all plastic packaging waste, including soft plastic, into the recycling bin once it is clean, dry and loose.

Ms McDonogh told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that a soft plastic is anything you can crunch in your hand.

Until now only hard plastics, such as plastic bottles and food trays, have been accepted.

Ms McDonogh warned that although cling film is accepted, it may be dirty because cling film often covers food, and dirty plastics cannot be put into recycling bins.

"To recycle properly, to ensure that more items can continue to be recycled, we need all citizens and all householders to place the items clean and dry and loosely in the bin," she said.

Call to reduce use of plastic packaging

The coordinator of environmental group, Voice, has welcomed the move to allow soft plastics to be placed in the recycling bins, but said the public needs to continue to pressure politicians, retailers and producers to reduce the amount of plastic packaging.

Mindy O'Brien said Voice wants to see more investment in infrastructure for reuse and refill.

She said there needs to be greater investment in Irish recycling facilities because currently the majority of items are shipped abroad for recycling.

"A lot of our recycling is shipped abroad and I know there are efforts afoot to try to get recycling facilities so we can recycle the material here, but right now we are not," Ms O'Brien said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today Claire Byrne, she said black plastic has been a problem in the past but can now go in the recycling bin.

Ms O'Brien said she had "high doubt" that crisp packets could be recycled but these products will be used as a fuel replacement for cement kilns.

She said a new deposit scheme for plastic bottles should come into effect next year.

This will see a deposit charged for each can or bottle purchased, which is then refunded when the empty container is brought back to the retailer.

The CEO Repak, Seamus Clancy, said Ireland is only able to recycle half of the soft plastic that is disposed of.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Clancy said that is "the same right throughout Europe".

He said the European Commission had promised to quadruple facilities and infrastructure by 2025, and that Europe at the moment "continues to be a laggard in that and everybody has to step up to the plate".

He said one solution is less packaging, but Ireland is not doing enough to achieve that.

Today is "a significant step in the recycling of waste plastic packaging in Ireland" he said, as up until now almost 160,000 tonnes of this material was going to waste to energy.

He said that under EU law, all plastic packaging will have to be recyclable by 2030, which requires producers to make sure that happens.