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Recycling, Landfill & Incineration in Ireland

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Recycling – how it works:

  • Once the waste arrives at the material recovery facility the process starts with the sorting of materials, first by hand and then by machines.
  • Workers at the facilities are forced to sift through things like dirty nappies, mouldy food, medical waste and more. 
  • Contamination of recycling bins by these types of items can be as high as 36%.  (Source).
  • Machines sort and separate the paper, plastic and metal.
  • Small items that fall through the gaps in the equipment are shredded and used for daily landfill cover.
  • Paper, plastic and metals are each packaged into separate bales, most of which is sent outside Ireland where it is bought and sold on the open market before ending up at recycling plants in Europe or Asia.
  • If food, nappy waste or medical waste has contaminated the bales they will be rejected at their destination.  Sometimes this results in an entire shipment being rejected.
  • Videos:
    • Recycling in Ireland – Video.
    • Panda Recycling – Video.
  • What happens to our recycling – article from

Landfill in Ireland:

  • In 2020 there were a total of 3 landfills accepting domestic waste.  This is down from a total of 29 landfills in 2007.
  • Of the municipal waste generated in Ireland in 2018, 38% was recycled, 43% was used in energy recovery (ie. incineration) and 14% was landfilled.
  • Disposal to landfill has fallen sharply from over 80% in 2001 to 14% in 2018, with the landfill levy a key policy driver in this. Most of the municipal waste diverted from landfill has gone to energy recovery.  (Source: EPA).
  • Landfill Mining.


  • There are currently 2 incinerators in Ireland:
    • Dublin Waste-to-Energy (Poolbeg) – Covanta.
    • Meath Waste-to-Energy – Indaver.
  • Waste Incineration – video.
  • Waste-to-Energy Incineration – video.