Ireland produces over half a million tonnes of hazardous waste annually

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has today published its latest hazardous waste (including lead-acid batteries) figures for Ireland. The figures show that the amount of hazardous waste generated in Ireland continues to grow, with over 500,000 tonnes of hazardous waste generated in Ireland in 2018, up over 90,000 tonnes in a year.

The increase in hazardous waste generated in 2018 was driven mainly by a large increase in the quantity of ash produced from Ireland’s municipal waste incinerators.

Hazardous waste is produced from a wide variety of sources and covers many waste types. Industry continues to be the largest generator of hazardous waste – producing solvents, sludges, oils and chemicals. Other sectors such as businesses, construction, healthcare, waste incinerators, farms and households also produce a range of hazardous wastes.

Hazardous waste includes lead-acid batteries; waste electrical and electronic equipment, that can contain hazardous materials like heavy metals; healthcare risk waste and incinerator ash. In addition, contaminated soils generated from old industrial sites such as gas works, mines, tanneries, dock yards and petrol stations amounted to almost 18 per cent of all hazardous waste produced in Ireland.

Ireland does not have the range of facilities to deal with all of the hazardous waste generated in the country with nearly three-quarters of our hazardous waste exported to other European countries for treatment in 2018 including the Netherlands, the UK, Germany and Belgium. Over 20 per cent of hazardous waste was treated at Irish hazardous waste treatment facilities in 2018, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous year.

Over 100,000 tonnes of hazardous waste was treated at Irish hazardous waste treatment facilities in 2018, an increase of over 25,000 tonnes on the previous year.

Mary Frances Rochford, programme manager said: “Striving for more self-sufficiency nationally in the management of Ireland’s hazardous waste is a key action of the National Hazardous Waste Management Plan. While it is encouraging to see an increase in the amount of hazardous waste being treated in Ireland, exports of hazardous waste continue to grow. The increase of ash from waste incineration in 2018, which arose from increased incineration capacity in the country, highlights the need for an end-to-end approach to waste management practices in Ireland and a reduced reliance on waste exports.”

In terms of treatment of Ireland’s hazardous waste:

  • Six per cent were treated on-site at the industrial facility where the waste was generated, under conditions of EPA licence.
  • 21 per cent were treated offsite at Irish hazardous waste treatment facilities and
  • 73 per cent were treated at facilities in other countries such as the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Belgium, Norway and France.

The EPA compiles data on waste generation through direct survey of industry and waste facilities and in cooperation with the National Transfrontier Shipment Office. The 2018 information is available on the here.