There is a lot more to do, but the sector is making enormous strides in reducing its carbon footprint and promoting sustainable sourcing and trading practices. From using renewable energy, low energy equipment, building with recycled materials, cutting the amount of plastic, to championing the circular economy and compostable products, tackling environmental issues is now a both a social and commercial priority.
Many retailers host recycling centres, with returns for glass and used clothes. Retail has played a leading role in the growth in packaging recycling and recovery from under 15% in 1998 to 90% in 2016.
Repak and the ‘Plastic Pledge’
Irish retailers are members of Repak, which in 2019 paid €30m in fees to directly fund household recycling bins, bottle banks, recycling centres and commercial waste packaging nationwide. For every €1 of members fees received, 79c is spent on recycling (57c on household recycling and 22c on commercial recycling), 3c on Recovery (Energy from packaging waste), 4c on Education & Communication and 14c on Repak overheads.
In June 2020, Ireland had surpassed every recycling and recovery target set for it by the European Union, for the 22nd year in a row, with recycling rates as follows:
- Plastic at 35% (EU target 22.5%)
- Paper at 82% (EU target 60%)
- Metals at 85% (EU target 50%)
- Glass at 78% (EU target: 60%)
- Wood at 81% (EU target 15%)
Ireland’s main retailers are part of Repak’s ‘plastic pledge’ which aims to reduce plastic packaging waste. In 2019 Ireland’s plastic packaging waste was reduced by 1,000 tonnes.
- Prevent Waste: Focus on prevention of plastic packaging waste by minimising single use packaging and promoting packaging reuse where possible.
- Support Circular Economy: Support Ireland to deliver the Circular Economy Package plastic recycling targets of 50% of all plastics by 2025 and 55% of all plastic packaging by 2030, as set by the European Commission.
- Simplify Polymers: Reduce complexity within the plastic packaging supply chain by simplifying polymer usage and eliminating non-recyclable components in all plastic packaging by 2030.
- Use Recycled: Help build a Circular Economy for used plastic packaging by increasing its use with a recycled content.
- Avoid Food Waste: Ensure the reductions in use of plastic packaging do not jeopardise our opportunities to achieve Ireland’s goal of a 50% reduction in food waste by 2030 as set out in Ireland’s food waste charter.