Soft Plastics. Soft Solution.

Sep 20, 2021

With the news that soft plastics are now recyclable in Ireland I was left with a lot of questions. 

Firstly, when is my waste company going to let me know about these changes and what I need to do to segregate properly by their guidelines?

Can I start segregating soft plastic in my home bins today? 

Also, how is it now possible and how is this plastic going to be used? 

Whilst I welcome the news, I fear that it may now be used as a license to keep using plastic rather than reducing our dependence on it. 

When I looked for more information online, I found that 83% of recyclable material collected in Ireland is currently exported, including all cardboard, paper and plastic.  We are creating way more waste than our country waste management systems can deal with – should we be ok with this?  I think not.  Reduction should be the very thing we are doing. Starting today.

In 2018 data showed that Ireland generated approximately 264,000 tonnes of plastic and only recycled 82,000.  There are hefty recycling targets for Ireland in the government’s current plans: with 50% by 2025, and 55% by 2030 to be recycled.

New optical sorting has created the possibility of sorting and recycling more plastic. “Clean, loose and dry” has become the new slogan for recycling, so soft plastics need to be all three for the machine to recognise the material and sort it properly into recycling.  This leads me to more questions: What happens to the plastic that is sorted?  Is it recycled in Ireland, shipped abroad, is it actually recycled to be used again?

With Ireland recycling less than a third of its plastic packaging something did need to be done.  The bit of the puzzle that isn’t solved for me is: we didn’t manage 100% of our waste and recycling in Ireland before this measure – how will we manage it now?  I remain baffled.

As with all things environmental we need clear communication – I believe once people know how to do something they will, miscommunication is one of the main things that is going against us in trying to creative positive changes. 

I also believe that if people know what is happening with their recycling and waste that they will be more proactive in making changes – it feels a bit like smoke and mirrors at the moment. 

In Spain, waste management is  a public service, in the UK, waste management is a public service. Privatization of waste management in Ireland is one of the biggest mistakes we have made to manage our country’s impact on the environment.

I do wonder, with the Green Party in a coalition government, has a conversation to make waste management a priority and return back to a public service been started??? Or are we still thinking waste is not an issue? Out of sight out of mind seems to be rule….



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