I thank the Minister for coming to the House. I have an interest to declare in that I am a director of a company that imports equipment and materials for the tyre remoulding industry. I hasten to add that I do not receive any payment for it. I, like many others, am very concerned about the disposal of waste tyres. There has been a great increase in the number of cars and other motor vehicles in the country, which naturally means there has been a great increase in the number of waste tyres that are not suitable for recycling and which are at the end of their lifespan.
I am very glad to note how concerned the Minister is about waste tyres. I read with great interest a press release issued by his Department on 29 October 2004 before Hallowe'en which stated:
"The uncontrolled burning of waste tyres must stop," said Dick Roche T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government today [29 October 04]. The Minister was commenting in advance of Halloween night where thousands of waste tyres will end up on bonfires all around the country. "The Halloween Bonfire is a great Irish tradition going back to our very earliest times. However, this tradition does not give us licence to burn wastes which give off toxic smoke" said Minister Roche.
The uncontrolled burning of tyres produces dense smoke and toxic fumes polluting air, water, soil and vegetation. Many of the toxic fumes released have the capacity to cause a genetic mutation that can lead to cancer in future generations. It is thought that the uncontrolled burning of tyres is 8 times more likely to cause genetic mutation than the burning of plastic.
In addition water used to control these fires can cause pollutants to be washed into the ground and watercourses. Waste tyres can also provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes and vermin.
The Minister is also quoted as having said that he was very concerned over our failure to dispose of many of our waste tyres in an appropriate environmentally friendly manner. He pointed out that it is clear from EPA figures that very few tyres end up in local authority landfills. It has been illegal to put tyres in landfills since 2003. Tyres are still disposed of on farmyards, for example, where there are considerable numbers of tyres. They may be burnt or disposed of in another inappropriate manner or may be left lying around in unauthorised stockpiles, which can be a hazard to people and the environment. The Minister also pointed out that his Department had been engaged with the Irish Tyre Industry Association to try to get the tyre industry to take proper care of waste tyres. He said he is making progress in that area.
Another point raised by the Minister through the press release appears to have caused some confusion: "I also have concerns about the "environmental levy" that some tyre retailers are charging for the disposal of waste tyres." The levy is being paid for by the customers who bring the tyres to the retailers. There is really no environmental levy on tyres for retailers. It is the person who sells the tyres who is supposed to dispose of them. There will be a disposal charge for the collection of these waste tyres. There are licensed waste tyre collectors and therefore the retailers have no excuse for saying there is nowhere to get rid of them. There is a facility in Dundalk called Crumb Rubber Ireland which will take the tyres and convert them to a form in which they do not represent an environmental hazard.
A great number of tyres still seems to be taken, perhaps by tyre collectors, to farms. This number is surely in excess of that needed on silage pits, for example. In Northern Ireland, a farmer with over 250 old tyres on his land must pay £750 every three years for a waste exemption permit licensing him to hold them on his farm. This amounts to £250 per year. What does the Minister propose to do to address the waste tyre issue in the Republic?