25 October 2019 by Lucy Pegg

N. Ireland hits 50% target 18 months early

Northern Ireland’s councils have exceeded a 50% recycling rate – hitting their 2020 target 18 months early.

Northern Ireland has recycled 50.4% of its waste in the past year (image: Shutterstock)

Data for July 2018 to June 2019 shows that households in the region are recycling and composting more waste than ever before, recording an exact rate of 50.4%. The landfill rate has continued to fall in response, falling to 24% for the last quarter.

Local authorities collected 265,181 tonnes of municipal waste between April and June – 2.9% less than in the same three months of 2018. Mid Ulster had the highest recycling rate at 63.2%, with Derry City & Strabane’s 45.5% rate the lowest amongst the Northern Irish councils.

Owen Lyttle, assistant director of environmental policy at Northern Ireland’s Department of Agricultural, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), said the results were a “huge achievement for all involved”.

He explained: “Achieving this result reflects a tremendous effort by all those involved in the waste management sector, local and central government, reprocessing sector, the voluntary sector and of course the public.

“Together we have surpassed our strategy target of recycling 50% of our household waste by the end of 2020, putting us in a good place now to focus our efforts on addressing the bigger challenges of climate change.”

Residual waste

The figures also show Northern Ireland’s residual waste is increasingly being sent to energy recovery facilities, rather than landfill.

The energy recovery rate was 18.7%, up from the 17.1% reported for April to June 2018. Though 40.9% of waste was incinerated to produce energy in Newry, Mourne & Down, just 5%  at 40.9 per cent and the lowest was 5.0 per cent in Ards & North Down.

For most councils, energy recovery for mixed residual waste accounted for a greater proportion of total energy recovery than specific streams such as wood.

“It is about how do we derive economic and social benefits from the production of waste.”

Eric Randall, Bryson Recycling

The landfill rate increased only in Mid & East Antrim, where the rate increased by 1.2 percentage points to 35.9%.

Next steps

Eric Randall, director of Bryson Recycling which collects and processes materials from 60% of homes in Northern Ireland – described the results as “a real achievement” for the country’s waste and recycling industry.

Having met its targets for quantity, Mr Randall said that the focus now needed to shift.

He explained: “Now that we have reached it we are going to be focusing on the quality of the material and the value it has for the Northern Ireland economy.

“It is about how do we derive economic and social benefits from the production of waste.”

In July DAERA announced £23 million of investment in schemes to make recycling easier, as its household recycling rate overtook England’s for the first time. (see letsrecycle.com story)

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