Packaging Waste From Online Retailers Growing By 28% Per Year
The amount of packaging waste material being generated in Ireland from online shopping outside the State is growing by 28% per annum and is now over 7,000 tonnes of waste per year. Yet online retailers from outside the state, such as Amazon and others are using a loop hole in the law to avoid not spending a penny towards the cost of recycling the packaging they deliver to Irish households.
This is the finding of a new report into the volume of online shopping carried out by Repak Ltd. The packaging compliance scheme has published a report which shows that over 7,520 tonnes of waste packaging are being delivered to Irish households each year by international online retailers. These same online retailers do not contribute any funds towards either the recycling or recovery of the same material.
“This amounts to an abuse of the Irish recycling system and the Government must respond,” said Séamus Clancy, CEO of Repak Recycling. “The likes of Amazon and others are dumping over 7,000 tonnes on us, and it is responsible Irish shopkeepers and retailers who are paying for this bill. To put it in context, that level of waste is the equivalent of all waste generated by a town of 16,000 people. This material has to be collected, gathered and recycled. It is costing Repak members approximately €500,000 a year to recycle and recover this packaging, of which international retailers do not pay a penny.”
Séamus Clancy warned that the current situation is giving major retailers from outside the state an unfair advantage over Irish companies that are making a contribution towards the cost of recycling. As they are outside the state, they cannot be compelled to make a contribution towards recycling. Repak believes such retailers are hiding behind a legal loophole and has called on the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the EPA to consider the matter.
“Unlike Repak members, these companies have no incentive to reduce the waste they generate. Irish companies pay a fee based on how much packaging they produce. These companies are outside the system and they are exploiting it.” He continued: “It is grossly unfair and is distorting competition between Irish retailers and international online retailers. They are ignoring any corporate social responsibility and in this instance, it is not the polluter that pays. It requires intervention from the Department and the Government and we call on the Minister to examine what the appropriate ‘polluter pays’ mechanism is to ensure there is fairness in the retail sector. We would propose that an online retail forum should consider how best to address this matter.”
The report, titled Study of online consumer sales, the impact of online consumer sales on additional packaging in Ireland, was prepared for Repak by Dr Pat McCloughan, Managing Director of PMCA Economic Consulting. It highlights the lack of a recycling policy in the of e-commerce industry in Ireland.
In 2016, 27 million items of consumer’s goods were imported into Ireland as a result of online purchases from abroad by households (excluding e-products as they do not contain packaging). Clothing/Apparel, footwear and accessories were the main category of imported goods making up 25% of the overall share of online cross-border purchases by households.
Most of the imported packaging into Ireland is cardboard, making up 77% of the total weight of packaging materials. The second largest packaging material in tonnes was low-density polyethylene (13.3%), followed by paper (4.8%) and glass (3.6%).
The report recommends that the Department of Communications, Climate Change and the Environment in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, looks further into this form of e-commerce and its environmental implications in terms of the cost of having to deal with the additional packaging waste generated in Ireland and the most effective policy response.