Environmentalists have described as “shocking and unprecedented” the discovery of 114 dumped tyres and a Chinese fridge-freezer on a 1.2km stretch of coastline.

The shocking haul was among five tonnes of rubbish removed from Ballybranagan and Ballycroneen strands in East Cork during a massive beach clean operation. It was mounted by 90 transition year students at St Colman’s College in Midleton as part of An Taisce’s Clean Coasts programme.

Teacher and Clean Coasts co-ordinator Proinsias Ó Tuama said they plan to go back soon to retrieve at least five more tyres which could not be reached due to the tide.

“They are mostly truck tyres but there was one that looked like an aircraft tyre — it was that big and wide,” he said.

“Based on the spread of the tyres along the shore, it appears as if they were dumped at sea and then washed ashore.”

The students collected the material over two separate operations.

They hit a 600m stretch of coastline along Ballybranagan beach just over two weeks ago, and collected 75 tyres, 117 bags of rubbish, and industrial fishing equipment including nets and gear. The material was later removed by Cork County Council.

They tackled nearby Ballycroneen beach at the weekend and collected a further 137 bags of rubbish, more fishing gear, 39 more tyres, and a fridge-freezer with Chinese labels.

It brought their total haul from the 1.2km stretch to over five tonnes — 114 tyres and 254 bags of rubbish.

Council workers removed all the waste for disposal or recycling yesterday.

Sinead McCoy, coastal communities manager with An Taisce’s environmental education unit, described the tyre haul as “unprecedented” from such a short stretch of coastline.

Data from Clean Coasts volunteers last year showed that tyres were recovered in half the beach clean operations.

“In the vast majority of cases it was one tyre. In a couple of cases, multiple tyres were found on the beach,” said Ms McCoy.

“This situation in East Cork is not indicative of all beaches. This was obviously a blackspot area. The students identified it as a problem area and they have really tackled it. They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“This highlights the need for the Clean Coasts programme. We would encourage more Clean Coasts groups to join in.”

Environment Minister Denis Naughten tweeted a message of support to the students and insisted that he is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of tyre waste.

Despite objections from the Irish tyre industry, he has introduced a regulatory system for disposal of “end-of-life” tyres, a move which came into force on Sunday.

Mr Ó Tuama welcomed the move and said: “It won’t fix the problem entirely but it will have an impact.”

It is being funded by a visible management cost (vEMC) of €2.80 per car tyre and €1.50 per motorbike tyre.

Further vEMCs will be introduced later for truck, construction, and agricultural tyres. Bicycle tyres are not included in the scheme because the quantities involved are relatively small.

The Government has already allocated €1m to clean up the estimated 750,000 waste tyres which have been illegally dumped around the country.


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