Doing a bit of travelling around the country it was hard to ignore the huge amount of discarded tyres blighting the landscape.
Even Environment Minister Denis Naughten, has admitted there are “mountains of tyres’’ in Ireland.
There’s a serious problem here and elements within the tyre industry are not facing up to it. Going by the polluter pays principle, the tyre industry is legally obliged to properly dispose of its waste and the taxpayer should not have to foot the bill.
Suppliers and retailers of tyres have a duty to ensure used tyres are recycled, but there is almost 50% non-compliance with the tyre regulations. Between 10 million and 15 million tyres are in illegal dumps around the country, even in scenic areas, it is reckoned.
Mr Naughten has accepted the disposal system is not working, saying 25% to 50% of the tyres put on cars here are unaccounted for. “The current system is broken. Consumers are already paying €1.75 to €3.50 for every tyre to be recycled, yet that is not happening,’’ he told the Dáil recently.
He promised a clear and transparent system, with a charge of €2.80 per car tyre. There’s a free scheme for agricultural tyres because the department does “not have a handle’’ on the relevant figures.
“We are determined to ensure that all of the tyres that are taken off cars in this country are fully recycled,’’ said the minister.
Manufacturers and other sections of the trade are subject to the waste management regulations, but a farmer who needs waste tyres to anchor silage covering can store up to eight tyres for every square metre of the floor area of a silage pit, without a waste permit.
An estimated 35,000 tonnes of waste tyres are generated in Ireland each year, a huge amount in a small country and capable of causing large-scale pollution on the environment.
Rubber from shredded tyres has many uses, such as in recreational areas, equine bedding or on sports pitches and playgrounds. Many sports clubs now have such pitches. Steel from tyres is also valuable.
Waste tyres are not seen officially as hazardous waste, but this is disputed by some authorities and research is taking place. There are ongoing concerns over warnings that waste rubber used in artificial pitches may contain cancer-causing agents.
Gaboury Benoit, professor of environmental chemistry and engineering, at Yale University, has described the shredded tyres used on pitches as a ‘witch’s brew’ of toxic substances, arguing it is irresponsible to market hazardous waste as a consumer product.
The US Environmental Protection Agency is looking at claims from parents that the waste rubber is causing cancer in their children. The European Commission is also looking at the issue.
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