Senator Phelan will be aware of the significant progress in Ireland in improving our recycling performance and this has also been evident in the farming sector with the successful operation of the farm film plastics recovery scheme. The current scheme, operated by the specially established producer compliance scheme known as the Irish Farm Films Producers Group, the IFFPG, has achieved significant success in the recovery of waste bale wrap and silage wrap since it was established in 1997.
In recent years the scheme has been streamlined and improved, including through the development of better labelling to improve tracking of the movement of this material throughout the supply chain to combat the problem of unlevied farm film plastic being placed on the market. The revised arrangements agreed by my Department with the industry stakeholders also involved the clearing of a substantial backlog of uncollected farm plastic that had accumulated over the period since the scheme commenced. Special subsidised open-day collections were arranged on a phased basis. Under the scheme, facilities were temporarily designated on a once-off basis in each county council area where farmers could deposit stockpiled farm plastic free of charge. These events, which will be completed shortly, proved extremely popular with the farming community and it is now estimated that the total amount of plastic collected will be in the region of 37,000 tonnes. The scheme was funded from the Environment Fund.
The IFFPG is focusing on a similar approach, involving the use of temporary bring facilities, for future collections as they do not involve the high transport costs associated with individual farm collections and are likely to enjoy the continued support of farmers. My Department has also been in discussion with the IFFPG and the producers of agricultural and veterinary packaging, animal remedies and other hazardous substances used in farming. My priority now is to try to build on the model that has worked successfully for bale wrap. However, this will give rise to different challenges as these wastes cover not just packaging waste, some potentially hazardous such as bags used for feed or fertilisers, and chemical containers, but also substances such as unused or out-of-date animal remedies, the latter requiring collection under separate European Union and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food legislation. My Department will seek to ensure that a service is developed that will be available at a reasonable cost to farmers and that costs will be covered in whole or in part by producer responsibility obligations in accordance with the polluter pays principle.
The development of environmentally sound management of hazardous waste, including the materials arising on farms is being addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the context of the draft second National Hazardous Waste Management Plan. The plan has been published on the agency's website in draft form for public consultation, which affords all stakeholders an opportunity to make observations on its contents. The deadlines for submissions to the EPA in this regard is 31 January 2008.
In the coming months, my Department will continue to pursue with the relevant producers and farming interests the further development of the producer responsibility concept.