Ireland is in danger of missing future EU municipal waste and plastic recycling targets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency, which has published its National Waste Statistics Report for 2020, calls for urgent action to be taken to address Ireland's municipal waste.

Waste generation in Ireland continued to increase in 2020, with rising levels making it difficult to maintain or increase recycling rates.

Given this, the EPA has warned Ireland is now in danger of missing its 2025 EU targets on waste and recycling of plastic packaging.

The recycling rate for municipal waste in 2020 stood at 41% - and must meet 55% by 2025, while for plastic packaging it stood at 29%, and must reach 50%.

While it welcomed a sharp decrease in landfill use since 2010, the agency has said Ireland still remains too reliant on export markets for the treatment of certain waste streams.

It added that immediate targeted actions are needed next year, in order to improve this.

The country needs systemic change, it says, to move away from the model of "take, make, use and waste", and has called for the mandatory incentivised charging of commercial waste collection, as well as the roll-out of more brown bins, among other measures.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, EPA Programme Manager Warren Phelan said "we're seeing that the generation of waste in Ireland continues to grow".

"When we look back over the last ten years of data and information, we can see that that recycling rate has kind of stagnated, has really gone up only three percentage points over that the last 10 years and we have a real challenge ahead of us now to meet the 2025 target, which is at 55%."

Mr Phelan said that there needs to be a range of urgent actions in the next 12 months that will help build towards reaching that target by 2025.

Ireland has always been quite reliant on export markets for its recyclable materials, such as electronic items, paper, cardboard and plastics would regularly be exported, he added.

However, he said there is "a growing indigenous base of recycling processes in Ireland", which is "great to see".

Because we are a small market relative to other markets, the economies of scale are not often here to develop those types of facilities, Mr Phelan said.

He added that, in particular, food waste is still not being put into brown bins at household and commercial level.

"What we'd like to see is an increased roll-out of those brown bins, greater capture of that material into those brown bins and also at the commercial level the introduction of incentivised waste collection charges for businesses, which will reward them in terms of waste reducing waste, but also in capturing that material and putting more waste into bins for recycling."

He added that "there probably needs to be a better connection for the householder to the charging mechanism so that what we want is that people to feel being rewarded that if their behaviors are correct or doing the right thing that they feel that in their pocket as well, and what we want to see is greater movement of material, in particular food waste into our brown bin, so that we can improve the capture".