Over a million tonnes of waste was recycled and recovered in Ireland last year, new figures from Repak show today, surpassing the one million mark for the third time.

Today's report reveals that Repak achieved an overall recycling rate of 66% and recovery rate of 96% - surpassing EU targets set at 65% for recycling and 75% for recovery.

The overall plastic recycling rate in the year increased from 29% to 31%

Repak last year also funded an additional €3.8m funding for the certified recycling of plastic packaging. This was targeted funding and applied only to tonnes recycled above 2020 activity levels.

According to Repak, the industry responded very positively to this support, recycling an additional 7,291 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2021.

All key materials surpassed current EU recycling targets - glass 86% (EU target 60%), metal 71% (EU target 50%), paper 84% (EU target 60%), plastic 31% (EU target: 22.5%) and wood 69% (EU target 15%).

Paper was also up on 2020 with an additional 5,757 tonnes being recycled on 2021.

Glass (6,361 tonnes) and steel (1,827 tonnes) showed a small drop off on 2020 with prolonged closures caused by Covid-19 for businesses during the year being the main reason and in line with expectations due to the Covid pandemic.

Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak, said that 2021 was another year of major challenges for its members, recovery operators and the staff of Repak in managing the pandemic.

But he said that despite the continuation of difficult operational conditions, the Waste Packaging Recycling Sector operated efficiently and in unison to ensure continuity of service resulting in positive results across key materials in 2021.

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Mr Clancy said that Ireland has been a leading nation in waste management for the last 23 years, surpassing all targets to date, but we are now reaching a critical juncture.

"Policy created to achieve future recycling targets is now being implemented and this demands an evolution of how we manage our packaging waste," the Repak CEO said.

"To date, excellent progress has been made in implementing key legislative requirements and this is with thanks to the significant work done by Repak to progress policy in a financially prudent and innovative manner," he added.

Today's report shows that despite a second consecutive year of a challenging business environment caused by Covid-19, Repak member numbers increased from 3,414 to 3,431.