Contaminated recyclable waste returned to Ireland

Dublin City Council has said that 160 containers of recyclable waste bound for China were detained by Dutch officials in Rotterdam in November and December because of “low-percentage” contamination by recyclable materials, writes Evelyn Ring.

The Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate agreed to reprocess 53 of the detained containers at a facility in the Netherlands, but the rest were returned to Ireland last month.

Dublin City Council is the competent national authority for the export, import, and transit of waste shipments and the return of the containers is expected to cost the waste industry in Ireland around €500,000.

Officers from the council’s National TransFrontier Shipments Office opened and examined the containers when they were returned to waste facilities in Ireland.

When the returned containers were originally exported from Ireland, they were declared as containing waste paper and cardboard. However, officers found mixed paper, cardboard, plastic, and other recoverable materials. Under EU legislation this mixture of material is required to follow a different export procedure.

A council spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing and that it is continuing to work with Dutch colleagues and other interested parties to resolve the issue.

There are no paper mills currently operating in Ireland, so most of the paper and cardboard collected for recycling here is exported to other paper mills, often in east Asia.

Greyhound Household Recycling has found that almost one third of all recycle bins left out for collection are contaminated. Concrete bricks, large household electrical goods, and even dead animals have been discovered in the bins by its collection crews.

Greyhound diverts almost all contaminated recycle bin waste to landfill sites where space is becoming scarce. It said the problem is most acute” in households that use bags to dispose of waste.

Greyhound managing director John Brosnan said contamination of the bins was highest in bag areas, where households could also use a green or brown bin.

The company has started imposing penalties on households that persistently present contaminated bins.

The Government is expected to announce a new waste pricing system later this year.

Mr Naughton believes “incentivised charging” is the way to increase levels of waste prevention and waste segregation.

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