How Recyclable is YOUR Business Packaging?

How Recyclable is YOUR Business Packaging?

, by Maeve Reidy, 7 min reading time

Domestic recycling rates are far ahead of commercial recycling rates ... so where are businesses going wrong?

EU Plastic Packaging Regulations


Back in 2018, the European Union updated a number of directives covering waste as part of it's overall Circular Economy Package. As a result of these changes, the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (94/62/EC) was amended with higher targets for packaging reuse and recycling to try to increase recycling rates for all packaging placed on the market across Europe.

Being part of the European Union, back in 2020, the Irish government published an amendment to SI 282/2014 - European Union (Packaging) Regulations 2014. This amendment (S.I. No 322/2020) increased recycling targets fro packaging in line with the new European legislation.

As a result, Ireland's recycling targets for 2025 and 2030 have increased for packaging overall, as well as for each of the individual packaging materials placed on the Irish market.

The State of Ireland

At present, Ireland meets all of the previous EU targets set out in the Packaging & Packaging Waste Directive.

In fact, we've already exceeded 2025 targets for Wood (66%) and Paper & Cardboard (75%). And in the case of glass recycling, we already exceed our 2030 targets with a current recycling rate of 85%!

However, the new plastic packaging recycling targets will be more challenging for Ireland to meet, and give an opportunity for Ireland to change the way in which we manage these often complex materials, which currently have a recycling rate of just 33%.

In order to achieve the new EU plastic packaging recycling targets of 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030, it will require a dramatic change by everybody in order to capture more of this material. This will require behavioural changes among consumers, businesses who handle these materials, and also how it's treated by the waste industry.

What Can Packaging Manufacturers Do?

As a packaging compliance scheme, Repak funds the recycling of packaging waste by packaging manufacturers in order to help Ireland meet its packaging recycling targets.

A significant opportunity still remains to capture more plastic and other packaging from commercial premises. Currently this is often not possible due to poor waste segregation practices on site as a result of:

  • Recyclable plastic packaging being discarded in business general waste bins.
  • Material being too contaminated when placed in a recycling bin, making it unsuitable for recycling.
  • Waste collection infrastructure or services that do not meet the current needs of businesses.

Although this is a concern, it must also present a significant opportunity to increase plastic packaging recycling rates given circa 50% of all packaging waste generated in Ireland arises at commercial premises.


Legal Obligations for Businesses

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan introduced incentivised charging for waste collection in the commercial sector. Since the 1 July 2023 there are legal obligations on Irish businesses when it comes to the segregation of packaging waste. Regulation 5 of the European Union (Packaging) Regulations 2014 as amended states that:

  • Producers should ensure that packaging waste is separated at source, by material type.
  • Packaging waste should be collected by a contractor for the purposes of recycling.

This change will bring the commercial sector in line with the residential sector for whom incentivised pricing has been in place since 2017. Under the updated regulations S.I. No. 104 of 2023, all waste collection companies will be required to provide a residual, mixed dry recyclable and bio-waste bin to all their commercial customers. It is important therefore that your business is segregating all recyclable packaging. Plastic packaging materials such as plastic pallet wrap, pallet hoods, case wrap and pallet sheets should be separated from other types of waste. If in doubt about what your waste contractor will accept in the recycling bin or in bales, ask them for their assistance.

It is also essential that these recyclable materials are kept as clean and dry as possible so that they are suitable for recycling at the point of collection.

Current and Future EU Packaging Recycling Targets

Material Previous Target 2025 Target 2030 Target
All Packaging 55% 65% 70%
Plastic 22.5% 50% 55%
Wood – including repair and reuse 15% 25% 30%
Metal 50% - -
Ferrous Metals (e.g., Steel) - 70% 80%
Aluminium Metals - 50% 60%
Glass 60% 70% 75%
Paper & Board 60% 75% 85%

What should you expect from your Waste Contractor?

Waste contractors have a significant role to play in helping you to maximise recycling at your premises. It is therefore critical to ensure that they are providing the following to your business:  

1. At least a three bin service for recycling (General Waste, Organic Waste and Mixed Dry Recycling).

2. Support in order to source segregate by material where possible such as through baling of plastic film, bottles and the separation of other recyclable items such as drums or barrels. These items are usually manufactured from highly recyclable plastics such as Polyethylene (LDPE or HDPE), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) or Polypropylene (PP).

3. A breakdown of what the waste contractor is doing with your waste showing:

  • what materials are being recycled
  • what materials are being recovered or disposed
  • food waste collected
  • the associated cost of all of the above.

This can usually be provided on a monthly basis and can help you track trends over the year to see how well you’re managing and any further improvements that might be needed. The more material that is being recycled, the lower the cost. In fact, it is important to note that source segregated material that has been baled is often collected free of charge.


What Can My Business Do?

Every single business in Ireland that ships out products, whether from it's from your kitchen table or a business premises that employs hundreds, can do their bit to reduce packaging waste!

Some things to consider:

  • Are you packaging your products "to size"? Do you use extra-large cardboard boxes with excessive voidfill because you think your product won't survive the shipping process? ShredPack has a number of cost-effective, protective, eco-friendly packaging solutions that may help.
  • Are you still using bubble wrap that can't be recycled? Bubl Air Cushioning Packaging (using HDPE plastic that is easily recycled) could be a better option.
  • Are your waste bins overflowing with waste cardboard? Using a Cardboard Shredder could reduce the amount of waste cardboard you have, to convert it into very useful, pliable (and extremely eco-friendly!) voidfill.
  • Do you have enough waste bins? Your waste contractor may be able to provide you with additional wheelie bins to help you segregate your waste better.
  • Do you really have to rely on plastic packaging? Consumers these days are actively looking for suppliers that consciously use eco-friendly packaging for their parcels. ActivaWrap Honeycomb Paper Packaging is a fantastic space-saving option that can really enhance the "unboxing experience" for your customers.

ShredPack have an ever-expanding range of carefully-chosen packaging solutions that we are sure will be an asset in your quest to comply with these new expected packaging regulations. With offices in Dublin and Cork, we can help every business in Ireland find the perfect packaging solution!

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