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Controversial compostables, really? Composting system in Ireland

Updated: Mar 6

There is a continuous debate in many EU countries regarding the use and implications of compostable packaging, as many of them have no composting system. On a recent trip to Ireland and attending the EPDA conference, we were positively surprised to see the presence of both compostable packaging options and designated composting bins in the streets of Dublin.

Here is a run-down of how the system works

Since July 2010 separating compostable trash in a designated green or brown container became mandatory in Ireland.

In 2019, the Government took additional action by transitioning to compostable coffee cups in their offices. As Richard Bruton, the at the time minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment said, they aimed to “lead by example”, in the hope that enterprises and community will follow. The intention is to make compostable coffee cups the only option available in the wider sector.

What does it mean?

For Businesses

  • All major producers of food waste should have a dedicated brown compostable bin and ensure that the content is not mixed with other waste

  • Businesses affected by this regulation can either transport the food waste to a recycling plant, treat it themselves, or use a third-party recollection service

For Households

  • Households are also obligated to segregate their food waste and make it available for separate collection

  • They are not allowed to dispose of compostable in the black bin

  • Recollecting third-party services are not available in distant unpopulated areas where the transportation CO2 emission would outweigh the benefit of composting

Collectors are obligated to charge less for the composting bin recollection, as it encourages the use. Though in April 2023 there was a controversy as the prices for recollection went up due to inflation and many complained that it made this more sustainable option less accessible.

3 things we can learn from Ireland?

  1. Compostable materials make sense for packaging with food content

  2. To make both the use of compostable packaging as well as the infrastructure to dispose of them broadly accessible

  3. Generate broader education through well-explained visuals in each trash can


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