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Sustainable Business Q1 2024

Incentivising Irish businesses to stay on top of waste segregation

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Petmal

Séamus Clancy

CEO, Repak Limited

Approximately 69% (EPA Municipal Waste Characterisation Studies, 2023) of items in commercial general waste bins should be in the recycling or organic/food bin. This is a ‘waste of our valuable resources’ that costs businesses millions of euros per annum. By separating your waste properly, businesses can save money.

Ireland’s waste industry is now estimated to be worth €1.7 billion (IBIS World, 2023) with 8,237 employees servicing household, commercial (business) and construction and demolition wastes. Waste management costs money, and these costs will continue to grow with the greater need for infrastructure to service the ever-increasing economic and population growth.

So, why is it that so many of our valuable resources end up in the wrong bin going for incineration or landfill?

  • There has always been a legal obligation for businesses to separate and segregate their waste. Most businesses aren’t aware of this obligation, and enforcement of these regulations is light touch.
  • The cost savings to businesses by having a segregation system are not understood or are not regarded as financially impactful enough to consider.
  • The provision of a three-bin waste segregation service to businesses is not in the interest of the profitability of the waste industry.

Three-bin regulation for commercial waste

The latter position changed with the introduction of new commercial waste regulations in July 2023. From July 2023, waste collectors in the commercial sector are required to provide three bins to all customers: (1) residual, (2) mixed dry recyclable and (3) food waste bin.

The legislation mandates that all commercial customers be enrolled in a pricing plan, guaranteeing that their expenses for mixed dry recyclable and food waste are lower than those for disposing of residual waste.

Since the launch of the enhanced commercial waste regulations in July 2023, uptake has been low, and incentivised waste segregation remains a slow rollout to deliver sustainable practices for Irish businesses. Businesses must remind waste collectors of their obligation to provide a three-bin system to their customers.

When businesses adopt proper segregation
and recycling of valuable materials,
they can reduce their overall costs.

Waste segregation transparency

When businesses adopt proper segregation and recycling of valuable materials, they can reduce their overall costs. Waste collectors must now provide detailed breakdowns of waste management processes, including recycling and disposal methods to include the associated costs. This information can empower businesses to track their performance and assess areas for improvement.

Aligning business incentives for sustainable recycling

Moreover, all businesses should be on a price plan where general waste will always be the more expensive option, incentivising a commitment to mixed dry recycling and food recycling. The motivation lies in reduced waste management costs for businesses and a meaningful contribution to the environment. Through individual efforts demonstrated by separating packaging, Ireland’s path to a sustainable future becomes a shared accomplishment.

To support Ireland in reaching its EU recycling targets for 2025 and 2030, more valuable resources must be captured for recycling with businesses using their three bins correctly. This is a win-win for everyone — the environment, cost to business and maximum use of resources.

Since its foundation in 1997, Repak Members have contributed over €633 million to supporting Ireland’s climate challenge in the development of collection and recycling infrastructure to deliver our members’ recycling targets, which all have been achieved.

For a list of Repak-approved waste contractors and to find out what your business can do to improve its recycling process, visit

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