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Call for cull on packaging as rate of our recycling reduces to just 64pc

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Only a third of plastic packaging was recycled, figures show

Only a third of plastic packaging was recycled, figures show

Only a third of plastic packaging was recycled, figures show

Shops and shoppers are slackening their recycling efforts, with the amount of packaging waste going to recycling on the slide.

Our purchases came wrapped in more than one million tonnes of packaging in 2018 and 64pc of it was recycled, but that total fell from 74pc in 2012.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that the trend is going in the wrong direction and called for a renewed effort to get it back on track.

Dr Eimear Cotter said businesses and households could help by avoiding stocking and buying goods with excessive packaging.

"It sends a strong signal back to producers to innovate for reduced packaging and reusable alternatives," she said.

She said more effort must be made by waste collection firms and their customers to properly segregate packaging in their bins.

She also called for the list of packaging types that can be recycled to be reviewed and expanded as a matter of urgency.

Packaging waste includes paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, wood and metal.

While high recycling rates were achieved in glass, paper and cardboard, only a third of plastic packaging was recycled - the third year in a row the volume reduced.

Gases

Materials not recycled are sent for incineration and while the Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin produces electricity from the process, the EPA says it is still far preferable not to generate waste in the first place.

"Each tonne of packaging releases greenhouse gases during extraction of raw materials, manufacture, transport and waste management," said EPA scientist Dr Tara Higgins.

"The quantity of packaging waste generated needs to be reduced to bring about environmental and climate benefits."

About a third of all the waste that ends up in household bins is from packaging.

The million tonnes of packaging we collectively generate in a year works out at 214kg for each person, including 86kg of paper and cardboard, 54kg of plastic, 34kg of glass, 25kg of wood, 12kg of metal and 2kg of textiles.

Ireland is currently meeting EU recycling targets but they will be increasing over the coming years, which the EPA warns will be "challenging".

For example, while we recycled 64pc in 2018, that cannot be allowed to fall any further as we must achieve 65pc by 2025 and 70pc by 2030.

There are separate targets for recycling plastic. We recycle 31pc of it now but that will have to increase to 50pc by 2025 and 55pc by 2030.

The Government is working on a new waste strategy but has said it wants to make it easier for the general public to recycle.

One thing it plans to do is make it clearer what exactly can be recycled as, while lots of plastic containers and wrappers have symbols on them, it's not always easy to know what they mean. Some packaging has no symbols at all even though it can be recycled, which adds to the confusion.