New research on municipal waste levels across Europe shows Ireland has the third highest rate per capita in 2009 with each individual generating 742kg per annum.
It equates to each adult generating about 10 times their own body weight in waste each year. Only Denmark and Cyprus generates more waste on a per capita basis than Ireland which produces almost 45% more municipal waste than the EU average of 513kg per annum.
The vast majority of domestic waste is treated either by landfill, incineration, recycling or composting. However, official EU figures shows that 1.6% of such waste in Ireland is untreated.
Although recycling and composting accounts for more than half of waste treatment in many countries with strong environmental-friendly waste policies including Austrian, Germany and the Netherlands, Ireland still remains highly dependent on dumping waste in landfill sites.
Research shows 62% of municipal waste in the Republic goes to landfill compared to the EU average of 38% — the highest rate of any country in western Europe. However, many east European countries including Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania still almost exclusively treat all their waste at landfill sites with over 90% of their waste treated in such a fashion.
However, Ireland can also display its green credentials as almost a third of household waste is now recycled. We rank joint fourth among the 27 EU member states in recycling rates with 32% of all waste being recycled — against the EU average of 24%.
In contrast, just 3% of municipal waste here is treated by incineration against the EU average of 20%. However, the amount of waste being incinerated is expected to increase if plans for a number of controversial incinerators in Dublin, Cork and Meath come on stream over the next few years.