Minister Eamon Ryan Launches Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy

Eamon Ryan Green Party

Ireland’s National Waste Policy 2020 – 2025 provides a roadmap to transition to a circular economy in the decade ahead.

Ireland will introduce ambitious new targets to tackle waste and move towards a circular economy under a new plan announced today by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan TD. The plan includes halving our food waste by 2030, the introduction of a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and cans, a ban on certain single use plastics from July 2021, and a levy on disposable cups. Other measures include applying green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement, a waste recovery levy to encourage recycling, and ensuring all packaging is reusable or recyclable by 2030.

By 2050, we will need three planet earths to meet our resource demands in a business-as-usual scenario.  A transition to a circular economy offers the possibility of a sustainable alternative future and is a fundamental step towards achieving climate targets. This action-focused plan will place Ireland at the vanguard of EU efforts. This new policy will require us to move beyond a position of merely managing waste, to where we question our use of resources and materials, how to reconsider product design to reduce waste generation and how we extend the productive life of the goods and products that we use.

Eamon Ryan:

“We all know that our current model of production and consumption is unsustainable in terms of resource use, waste disposal, climate change and loss of biodiversity.  What we need to do is rethink our relationship with our stuff – how we produce it, use it and dispose of it. This plan sets out how we will go about that in a way that benefits people and planet.”

This new circular economy will also present opportunities – in job creation and long term sustainability.

The overarching objectives in the action plan are:

  • To shift the focus away from waste disposal and treatment to ensure that materials and products remain in productive use for longer – thereby preventing waste and supporting re-use through a policy framework that discourages the wasting of resources and rewards circularity;
  • To make producers who manufacture and sell disposable goods for profit environmentally accountable for the products they place on the market;
  • To ensure that measures support sustainable economic models (for example by supporting the use of recycled over virgin materials);
  • To harness the reach and influence of all sectors including the voluntary sector, R&D, producers / manufacturers, regulatory bodies, civic society;
  • To support clear and robust institutional arrangements for the waste sector, including through a strengthened role for local authorities.

Some of the measures can be implemented immediately. Others require legislative or institutional change. The Minister recently signed three Regulations transposing EU Directives which will form the legislative foundation for Circular Economy provisions, while a new Waste Management (Circular Economy) Bill will be introduced for national measures. The work of the cross-sectoral Waste Advisory Group which has assisted in developing this plan will move now towards supporting its implementation.

Key targets under the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy

Households and Businesses  

  • Recycling targets for waste collectors
  • Standardised bin colours across the State: green for recycling, brown for organic waste and black for residual.
  • Environmental levies- for waste recovery and single use coffee cups  to encourage recycling and reuse
  • Waste oversight body to manage consumer rights
  • Education and awareness campaign to improve waste segregation

Food Waste

  • Halve our food waste by 2030
  • Sustainable food waste management options for all homes and businesses
  • Waste segregation infrastructure for apartment dwellers

Plastic, Packaging and Single Use Plastic (SUP)

  • Deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans
  • Single Use Plastics ban, including cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, stirrers, chopsticks, straws, polystyrene containers and oxo-degradable plastic products from July 2021.
  • Commitment to ban further products such as (but not limited to) Wet wipes (non-medical); SUP hotel toiletries; SUP sugar/sauce/mayonnaise etc. items.
  • Reduce number of SUPs being placed on the market by 2026

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • Mandatory EPR for all packaging producers before 2024 EU deadline
  • Producers liable for eco modulation of fees
  • All packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030

Construction and Demolition Waste

  • Revision of the 2006 Best Practice Guidelines for C&D waste
  • Streamline by-product notification and end-of-waste decision making processes
  • Working group to develop national end-of-waste applications for priority waste streams


  • Textile action group to explore options to improve future circularity in textiles
  • Work with Irish designers and retailers to promote eco-design for clothing and textiles
  • Consider global impacts of the international trade in used textiles


  • Review State support for development of recycling infrastructure
  • Examine legislation and procedures for development of waste management infrastructure
  • Standardise waste streams accepted at civic amenity sites


  • Expanded role for WERLAs to address priority waste enforcement challenges
  • Unauthorised sites action plan and anti-dumping toolkit
  • Fixed penalty notices for breaches of waste law

Government Leadership on Circular Economy

  • High level All of Government Circular Economy Strategy
  • Take the necessary steps to include green criteria and circular economy principles in all public procurement.
  • Develop Circular Economy Sectoral Roadmaps
  • Explore how Ireland’s digital sector can accelerate transition to a circular economy.

We can’t go on like this …

  • At current rates of consumption we will need 3 planet earths to meet our resource needs by 2050.
  • 200 million coffee cups are disposed of in Ireland every year; this equates to 6 every second.
  • In 2016 Ireland produced 15 million tonnes of waste, equating to 3.2 tonnes for every man, woman and child in the State.
  • Ireland wastes 1 million tonnes of food annually; this waste costs the average household 700 euro every year.
  • Between 1996 and 2012 it has been estimated that the amount of clothes purchased in the EU per person increased by 40%. However more than 30% of clothes have not been worn for at least 1 year.
  • In 2018 an EPA report found that approximately 70% of all waste in residual bins from the commercial sector could potentially be diverted to either recycling or brown bins.

Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy

Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy Infographic