Ireland surpasses all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2021: Repak

Seamus Clancy, chief executive of Repak

Overall recycling rates increased by 15,639 tonnes (2.2%) to 718,683 tonnes



29 June 2022

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Despite continued challenging conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Repak surpassed all EU recycling and recovery targets in 2021 and successfully progressed the implementation of key legislative requirements across the Circular Economy Package, Single Use Plastics Directives, and the Programme for Government.

The news that Repak has surpassed all EU recycling and recovery targets for the 24th consecutive year was announced at the publishing of its annual report. The report, titled ‘Environmental Responsibility in a Circular Economy’, reflected Repak’s ongoing commitment to ensure the objectives of the Circular Economy are placed at the core of all operational, educational and advocacy activity on behalf of Members and wider stakeholder groups. The report confirmed Repak delivered on all key compliance, waste management, educational and financial objectives.

Recycling and Recovery in 2021

In 2021, Repak achieved an overall recycling rate of 66% and recovery rate of 96% – surpassing EU targets set at 65% for recycling and 75% for recovery.

Repak also funded the recycling and recovery of 1,020,580 tonnes of packaging material last year – surpassing the one million mark for the third time. Overall, recycling rates increased by 15,639 tonnes (2.2%) to 718,683 tonnes. The increased rate of recycling was primarily driven by households (4% increase). Repak funded the recovery of 302,000 tonnes of packaging – a decrease of 33,000 tonnes (10%) on 2020 which was due to the diverting of more material to recycling.

Plastic tonnes recycled and funded by Repak reached 96,412 tonnes – an 8% increase on 2020. The overall plastic recycling rate in the year increased from 29% to 31% In 2021, Repak funded an additional €3.8m funding for the certified recycling of plastic packaging. This was targeted funding – applicable only to tonnes recycled above 2020 activity levels. The industry responded very positively to this support, recycling an additional 7,291 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2021.

All key materials surpassed current EU recycling targets: Glass 86% (EU target 60%), Metal 71% (EU target 50%), Paper 84% (EU target 60%), Plastic 31% (EU target: 22.5%), Wood 69% (EU target 15%).

Paper was also up on 2020 with an additional 5,757 tonnes being recycled on 2021. Glass (6,361 tonnes) and steel (1,827 tonnes) showed a small drop off on 2020 with prolonged closures caused by Covid-19 for businesses during the year being the main reason and in line with expectations due to the pandemic. 

“2021 was another year of major challenges for our members, recovery operators and the staff of Repak in managing the pandemic,” said Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak.

“However, once again I am pleased to announce, that despite the continuation of difficult operational conditions, the Waste Packaging Recycling Sector operated efficiently and in unison to ensure continuity of service resulting in positive results across key materials in 2021. Working with our stakeholders is an integral part of Repak’s success. On behalf of Repak, I wish to thank the Department of the Environment Climate & Communications (DECC), Environmental Protection Agency, Local Authorities, Regional Planning Offices and the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities.”

He added that the country is now reaching “a critical juncture”, as “policy created to achieve future recycling targets is now being implemented and this demands an evolution of how we manage our packaging waste”.

Plastic Pledge 

In June, Repak launched its third Plastic Pledge Annual Report which highlighted the achievements of pledge signatories against the five Plastic Pledge objectives. By year end, 141 signatories reduced or replaced 23,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from the market. Plastic Pledge Members reported an average plastic packaging use reduction of 18.6%.

Increased membership

Despite a second consecutive year of a challenging business environment caused by Covid-19, Repak member numbers remained stable – increasing from 3,414 to 3,431.

To read Repak’s annual report in full, visit



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