An environmental group says it has collected almost 200 tyres from a 1.2km stretch of coastline in the last 10 months.
The award-winning Clean Coasts Ballynamona group in East Cork, which organises regular volunteer beach cleans along a 40km coastal stretch, says it cannot say for certain how the tyres ended up on just a handful of beaches in their area.
But they say they believe it is a localised problem and not evidence of a more widespread problem along the Irish coast.
“Our group cleans about 1.5% of the total length of the Irish coastline and we are definitely seeing a pattern in this area — there is definitely a concentration of tyres being found in this area,” group spokesman, Proinsias Ó Tuama, said.
“But it would be pure speculation to comment on where they are coming from. We just don’t know if they are being washed up, or coming from elsewhere.
“We have collected bike tyres, car tyres and large tractor tyres.
Volunteers spent just over an hour with the Clean Coasts coordinators cleaning Ballybranigan beach last Sunday and collected around 70 bags of random beach litter, shredded fishing nets, dozens of items of plastic and about 40 tyres.
That tyre haul brought to almost 200 the number of tyres the group has collected in the last 10-months from beaches along a 1.2km stretch in their patrol area.
Last summer, Environment Minister Denis Naughton praised students of St Colman’s Community College in Midleton after they collected 75 tyres from Ballybranagan beach during a day-long beach clean.
Last October, despite objections from the Irish tyre industry, he introduced a new levy to fund tyre disposal alongside a new regulatory system for disposal of ‘end-of-life’ tyres.
It is funded by a ‘visible management cost’ (vEMC) of €2.80 per car tyre and €1.50 per motorbike tyre.
Further vEMCs are due to be introduced for truck, construction and agricultural tyres.
Bicycle tyres are not included in the scheme because the quantities involved are relatively small.
The minister said at the time that his department had already allocated €1m to clean up the estimated 750,000 waste tyres which have been illegally dumped around the country.
And he warned that he did not want to have to use public money to clean up illegally dumped tyres.
Mr Ó Tuama welcomed the introduction of the levy but said it will take some time before the benefits are seen on the ground: “It comes down to education. It’s the same basic problem — people not taking their litter home with them.
“We still have people burying nappies and beer bottles on the beach. Slowly but surely the message is getting out there but it’s going to take time. This is a marathon — not a sprint.”
The environmental group works closely with officials at Cork County Council’s offices in Midleton and Youghal which dispatch council staff to remove the vast quantities of rubbish collected during the various beach cleans.