The Problem


Every year in Northern Ireland, we export over 91,000 tonnes of recyclables collected from households. We could recycle most of these materials right here in Northern Ireland but we do not. Instead, we ship these often poorly-sorted recyclables around the globe, which is bad news for our local economy and the environment.

What’s more, local recycling companies pay millions of pounds to import ‘clean’ recyclables from other countries for processing into new goods here.


Our current practices are causing significant economic and environmental damage.




Put simply: because we don’t recycle properly.

We could, but currently we don’t. We also don’t have the right Government policies in place to support local recycling.



The majority of NI councils collect recyclable waste from households all mixed together (co-mingled) which leads to contamination that leaves much of it unfit for recycling locally. Instead, we ship it elsewhere, often to countries with poor environmental practices.

As a result of this, recycling companies here can’t source enough good quality material locally and are forced to pay to import clean recycling materials from elsewhere.

Current Government policies inadvertently encourage the export of poorly-sorted recyclables.

This approach is a waste of money with a significant negative impact on the environment.



There has to be a better way…

A Global Export

NI sends recyclable materials to countries around the world such as India, Turkey, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia who do not have adequate waste disposal infrastructure or environmental protections to deal with the waste by-products that result from recycling poorly-sorted recyclables



The Solution


Step One

Instead of collecting our recycling all mixed together, collect key materials separately.

  1. Paper & Cardboard
  2. Glass
  3. Other (Plastics, Cans, Foil & Cartons)

It’s that simple. It’s called 3-stream recycling.

This approach has been used elsewhere and has proven to be a great success.


Step Two


  • Change key legislation to incentivise local reprocessing rather than the export of recyclables


Step Three


  • Make information on end destinations of recycling more publicly accessible


If We Keep Key Recyclables Separate


  • Over 80% of household-collected recyclables could be recycled locally
  • NI councils could save around £12m a year 
  • Carbon emissions would be lowered
  • It supports local businesses and saves jobs
  • We stop exports of low-quality recyclables
  • We would be part of the solution, not the problem


of our recyclable waste could be reprocessed locally

The Impact


Changing how we recycle will have a real and lasting impact for the better.


Environmental & Economic

  • Over 80% of our recyclable materials could be recycled locally vs the 10% currently being recycled locally from co-mingled collections
  • 95% of plastics could be recycled locally vs 15% from co-mingled collections
  • Glass wastage reduced to just 1% vs the 40%+ currently being wasted in co-mingled collections
  • Local councils could save around £12m per year
  • Significantly support local businesses and provide secure jobs
  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Stop the global export of poorly sorted recyclables

What’s stopping us?




We should endeavour to keep recyclables local, support a circular economy and create well-paid manufacturing jobs. It’s a no-brainer, better for our economy and better for the world we live in.

However, we know that any potential solution must be practical. As part of that, the export of some recyclables will still be necessary. For example, there is no plant in Ireland, North or South, that reprocesses cardboard and the best solution is to export it to a country that has a paper mill. Indeed, the UK as a whole does not have sufficient recycling capacity in terms of paper mills.

So, where these exports are necessary, it should only be of high quality, well sorted material  that does not cause excessive waste or environmental harm. 


of our glass can end up wasted during the sorting process when collected co-mingled in a recycling bin


of glass put into co-mingled recycling bins is recycled in Northern Ireland

Who Are We?


We are a campaign group consisting of businesses and organisations who want a more sustainable approach to the way we use our recycling resources.  We are doing this for a better environment, for local jobs and the Northern Irish economy.        

We see getting this right as a win-win for all concerned. From councils to local businesses and workers to the public at home as well as the environment.

If we recycle the right way we will end the process of exporting poorly-sorted recyclables while simultaneously having to import better quality recyclables from countries where recycling is done better. Everyone and the environment will reap the benefits.

You’ll find the main aim and objectives of our campaign summarised here


Our Supporters


Bryson Recycling

Location: Mallusk and 11 sites in Donegal and Wales

Number of employees: 350+ 

Annual turnover: £18.6m

Outline of business activities: Bryson Recycling is the UK’s leading social enterprise provider of recycling services. They are committed to providing excellent recycling services that result in high quality materials that can be recycled locally.

Eric Randall, Director at Bryson Recycling says: “We believe a single three stream recycling collection system across Northern Ireland is achievable and would help us reach ambitious recycling targets. The recycling industry contributes significantly to our economy and this approach would enable these manufacturers to access high quality local materials that in turn would benefit the economy, cut carbon emissions and generate employment”.


Company name: Encirc 

Location: Derrylin, Chester 

Number of employees: 500+

Annual turnover: £340m

Outline of business activities: Encirc, part of the Vidrala group, is a market leader in glass container design, manufacturing, bottling and logistics solutions for the UK, Irish and European food and beverages industries.

Fiacre O’Donnell, Director of Sustainability: “Glass is an infinitely recyclable material, and suffers no loss of quality during the process. For us to ensure our operations are as sustainable as possible, we need to use as much recycled glass cullet in our processes as we can. Increasing the amount of recycled glass in our bottles reduces the carbon impact of the bottle, so it’s vital that the cullet we receive is clean and uncontaminated”.


Location: Toomebridge and 32 other locations across the UK & ROI

Number of employees: 1,600 

Annual turnover: £294m

Outline of business activities: Enva is a leading provider of recycling and resource recovery solutions, with locations across the United Kingdom and Ireland. They operate a state-of-the-art glass recycling operation in Toomebridge.

Barry Phillips, Director of Enva NI: “The use of cullet in packaging such as bottles and jars is dependent upon the supply of a high quality and consistent source product. The best way to ensure its quality is to collect glass separately from other materials for recycling. By using this approach glass can be recycled locally benefitting our local circular economy.”


Enva & Encirc

As one of the most efficient materials to recycle, glass benefits from a well-established collection and processing infrastructure. Read more here:

Where does my glass go?

When glass is collected from your home, what happens to it? Well, that depends on how it is collected and that will decide where it ends up. Read more here:


This study concludes that there is a strong strategic, economic and environmental opportunity to improve recycling in Northern Ireland. Read more here:

Segregation Benefits

Some councils are moving away from dedicated glass collection. It may be simpler for the council but it’s bad news for the economy and the planet. Read more here: