Wednesday, 24 October 2018
I thank the Cathaoirleach for the opportunity to raise this issue. I am asking the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to increase funding for, and the number of, collection centres for agricultural tyre recycling. This follows on from the announcement last September of four locations nationwide for agricultural tyres to be collected. The four locations were distributed around the country in Cavan, Wexford, Galway and Tipperary. It was an amazingly successful initiative. Many hundreds of thousands of tyres were collected. Members of the agricultural community were charged a fee if the weight of the tyres collected went over a certain limit - 3 tonnes, I think. We really need a policy on this area. Picking four areas around the country and having them as the collection centres was an appropriate start but now we need to roll out a full scheme.
The scheme does not make sense in many ways. I will give the example of my county of Cork. There are more cows in Cork than in Northern Ireland, but there was no collection centre in Cork. If tyres had to be transported from parts of my constituency up to the nearest location, being in Tipperary, the distance travelled would be over 250 km. It would cost literally €1,000 to get a lorry up there and down again. It was therefore not logical for farming in my part of the world to avail of this very important scheme. Speaking parochially again, in Cork we had the Dunlop tyre factory, which closed in the early 1980s. As a result we had a massive array of tyres that were distributed locally to farmers, so we have a history in the county of having an awful lot of tyres. We needed a solution and the nearest solution we got was Tipperary.
There is already a scheme, as the Minister of State knows, for farm plastics. Farm plastics are collected in every co-operative the length and breadth of this country at least annually. There is a fee attached, but everyone goes to their local co-operative and recycles their farm plastics. They travel 2 miles, 3 miles or 4 miles, depending on the location. That is the logical space into which we need to move the agricultural tyre recycling service: in the same dynamic and the same situation we have with recycling of farm plastics.
What I am asking for today is an increase in the funding in this regard and that we look at the model that has already been very successful for recycling farm plastics being used for the recycling of farm tyres. The tyres that are there are a blight on us, a blight on society and a blight on our farmyards. We have now moved into a greener space. Farming has become in many ways a green industry because it had to do so. The world has changed. Farmers want to be a part of this revolution, ensuring that our environment is appropriately clean. This is a very important initiative. For it to have a major effect, it must come down to every parish and to the co-op and follow the model that has been in place for farm plastics. If I told the Minister of State 20 years ago that there would be a scheme for the collection of farm plastics, he would think I had gone mad, but now it is the norm. The question now is to expand it into this space so farmers have the opportunity to recycle these waste tyres for which they no longer have any use.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue. Both of us are dairy farmers and know that this is a serious issue. The farming sector is becoming much greener than ever before, which is a really good step.
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, thanks the Senator for bringing forward this Commencement matter. Repak End of Life Tyres, Repak ELT, commenced operations on 1 October 2017 as the compliance scheme for the tyres and waste tyres sector, under the Waste Management (Tyres and Waste Tyres) Regulations 2017, with a registration and reporting role for The Producer Register Limited. The compliance scheme carries out regulatory functions on behalf of its members and is funded by a visible environmental management charge. Under the Waste Management (Tyres and Waste Tyres) Regulations 2017, farmers are not allowed to stockpile tyres on farms. Where farmers use tyres to cover silage, they are prohibited from having more than eight tyres per square metre of any silage pit’s floor area. Since 1 October 2017, any farmer who wishes to take in waste tyres for the purpose of anchoring silage must register with the new tyre compliance scheme, Repak ELT.
The previous Minister made funding of €1 million available in 2017 for local authorities to deal with the clean-up of existing stockpiles of waste tyres across the country. The funding was provided to support the introduction of the new compliance scheme. At the time, he also indicated that he would look at the issue of tyres on farms. To that end, he announced on 13 September this year that funding of €700,000 would be made available in 2018 to assist farmers in removing waste tyre stockpiles from farms. The funding was intended to give farmers an opportunity to remove unwanted tyres from farms and ensure the tyres were treated in an environmentally sound manner. The vast majority of tyres collected are to be recycled in Ireland, which will support Irish jobs and the circular economy. Irish Farm Film Producers Group Limited, the national farm plastics recycling compliance scheme, agreed to organise the removal of waste tyres from farms through the holding of four bring centre collection days throughout the country. The collections - the centres were chosen because they represented a good geographical spread - took place in Cavan, New Ross, Athenry Mart in Galway and Monard, County Tipperary. In total, approximately 4,253 tonnes of tyres were collected at the bring centres and the €700,000 budget for 2018 was fully spent. The Department is reviewing the results of the process and, in conjunction with other stakeholders, will assess whether further collection days could be centrally funded during 2019.
I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive response. The success of the scheme is the issue. It has been a great success. The Minister of State has mentioned a figure of 4,253 tonnes of tyres being collected in the four centres. That is an indication of how successful the scheme has been, but it also proves that there is a huge appetite among farmers to ensure they can apply for and work within the scheme. When reviewing it, we have to take into account that there were only four locations. It can be argued that they were geographically central, but some farmers had to travel over 250 miles. That is probably the biggest issue. To make the scheme workable, we need to look at the model that has worked, namely, the model for farm plastics. We need to review the scheme and look at the model which has worked to see if we can follow it through to have a much cleaner environment and farmyards.
I am aware of where we are and that the farming sector is much more responsible than ever before, which is good. Having said that, it is important that farmers do not allow large stockpiles of tyres to accumulate. If they are not required, they should be removed. While funding of €1 million was allocated initially and €700,000 subsequently, I am aware that there were large queues in New Ross, although I do not know about the other centres.
That is appropriate. It is important that where there are stockpiles of tyres, farmers do the right thing and remove them. We have not yet advanced it. I am not saying we will, but the matter is to be considered. If there are stockpiles, they have the potential to cause pollution and should be recycled. I know from speaking to tyre centres throughout the country that there might be a small cost involved, but it is the right thing to do, rather than have the tyres on farms, polluting and causing damage. If there was a check, it could potentially cost somebody money under the basic payment scheme. That would not be a good result and nobody wants it to happen. We are still looking at the issue, but the Minister is aware of the success of the scheme. There were 4,200 tonnes of waste taken out and properly disposed of. It was the right thing to do, but there is more to be done, of which we are aware. I thank the Senator for raising the issue. I understand the size of County Cork. I also know the number of cows in the county. The Senator is a very good advocate in that regard.