First look at Ireland’s plans for a circular economy

16 Apr 2021

Image: © TSUNG-LIN WU/

The first draft of Ireland’s circular economy strategy includes an innovation grant scheme and a successor to the National Waste Prevention Programme.

Climate action is ramping up across Europe. Here in Ireland, recent initiatives include a new €10m fund to help companies compete in a low-carbon future and a five-year training plan to help them prepare for the impacts of the climate crisis.

Today (16 April) marks another step towards a sustainable future as the Government has published the first draft of its national strategy to transition to a circular economy. It has outlined five objectives for 2021 and 2022.

Firstly, it will provide a national policy framework for Ireland’s transition to a circular economy. It will also support and implement measures that significantly reduce Ireland’s circularity gap so that the rate is above the EU average by 2030. Education and public engagement on is also on the agenda, as is identifying and addressing the barriers to helping Ireland transition, and promoting investment in the circular economy.

“We are now developing a whole-of-Government strategy to ensure Ireland transitions to a circular economy and avails of the opportunities the circular economy can provide,” said Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan, TD.

“These opportunities include reducing waste, shrinking our carbon footprint, supporting local and regional economic development, growing new business models and providing skilled employment opportunities.”

Innovation Grant Scheme

The strategy promises to support and promote investment in the circular economy through regionally balanced economic growth and employment opportunities.

To that end, the Government has announced the Circular Economy Innovation Grant Scheme to support projects by social enterprises, voluntary and community groups and companies with less than 50 employees.

Total 2021 funding for this call is €250,000, with a funding range for projects of between €10,000 and €50,000.

Applications will be welcomed under a number of thematic areas, including plastics, food waste, construction and demolition waste and resources and raw materials. For example, projects could focus on the redesign of products for easier end-of-life recycling or on increasing the recovery of listed critical raw materials.

Circular Economy Programme

Another element of the strategy is the Circular Economy Programme, which is the successor to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Waste Prevention Programme.

The EPA brings 15 years of waste-prevention expertise to the programme. Activities under the new initiative will target sectors that use the most resources and where the potential for circularity is high, the Government said. It will also look to change behaviour towards waste prevention through developing target-driven roadmaps on food waste and plastics, among other measures.

The programme will further support business during the transition and help realise enterprise opportunities by supporting new business models, promoting resource efficiency and retaining material value through enhanced use of secondary and recycled materials.

Laura Burke, director of EPA Ireland, said the programme will “translate national circular ambitions into the daily activities of workplaces and homes across Ireland”.

“Creating a resource-efficient economy and resilient society requires rapid and far-reaching transformation across all sectors,” she said. “We look forward to hearing from our stakeholders with their views on the programme’s objectives and priorities.”

The EPA is calling on people across the country to have their say in a public consultation on the new programme. It will accept responses until 5.30pm on Friday 11 June.

Lisa Ardill was careers editor at Silicon Republic until June 2021