Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Farm Plastics Recycling: Discussion

Mr. James Fitzgerald:

I thank Senator Lombard for his questions which were on the market, the amount of plastic in the country and the backlog. I would estimate that there are approximately 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of plastic out there and that may even be a little conservative. Anecdotal evidence from yards suggests that is what is in the system at the minute. A multi-strand approach is required to clear the backlog. We must deal with the green versus amber debate in the context of the transfrontier shipment of waste. We could be in a position where there are markets for farm plastics as green waste. We could ship a certain amount of plastic in that manner, or at least facilitate the moving of farm plastics, thus reducing our stockpile.

Deputy Fitzmaurice raised the issue of a recycling facility and my comments in relation to that may not be orthodox. If we were to consider developing such a facility in Ireland, with State support, the first thing it would need is a base operating load. The 25,000 tonnes could be looked at as an asset or a liability. If one is setting up a recycling facility, one needs a base load and 25,000 tonnes of farm plastic would not be shocking. There have been up to 4,000 tonnes of plastic in my own yard at times so having 1,500 or 1,600 tonnes in stock in a really difficult market situation would be well within our remit. We can examine the recycling facility option but the most immediate action that could be taken to deal with the 25,000 tonnes in 2021 is the facilitation of exports.

The Senator also asked about future reforms. We should revisit the statutory model, consider the designation of farm plastic as an amber material and look into the development of a recycling facility for the country as a whole. I hope that addresses the questions posed.