An independent TD has called for a policy review in respect of farm plastics.
He is demanding the establishment of a strategy for building a national farm plastic recycling facility and a review of the export status of farm plastics.
The farm waste plastic market, he outlined, underwent a dramatic shift in January 2017 when the Chinese recycling market closed abruptly.
During a Dáil debate, he stressed that a combination of closure of the exports to China and the non-viability of transfer to other European recycling centres has left “alarming stockpiles of plastic in the hands of IFFPG and private businesses”.
“The current Irish designation is amber, which attracts significant and stringent transport requirements and charges.”
“These regulations are imposed by the National TransFrontier Shipments Office in Dublin City Council.”
In contrast, he stressed, the status across Europe is that farm plastic is designated green and enjoys free movement with no additional costs.
It is now inevitable that such plastic will have to be exported from the jurisdiction to be recycled at a considerable loss, Lowry added.
“No Irish recycling facility is equipped to deal with such significant levels of farm plastic recycling.”
“We now have, therefore, an enormous amount of plastic sitting in gigantic piles in several locations around the country.”
“These mountains of plastics are growing daily and, ironically, have become a threat to the environment. They must be seen to be believed.”
“During its tenure, the IFFPG has collected quantities of waste farm plastic far in excess of its target.”
It is currently collecting approximately 70% of available plastic, the independent TD noted. “The balance of the plastics on the market are collected by private Irish businesses.”
“These independent operators are subject to the same regulation as the IFFPG but do not receive any portion of the financial levy paid by farmers.”
Lowry believes that is not a fair or equitable situation and leaves independent operators at a “financial disadvantage”.
Increase intake to 50,000 tonnes
In response, Simon Coveney, said: “The Deputy referred to the IFFPG. It does a very good job for farmers in respect of collection and making available 235 bring centres annually for farmers to bring waste plastics.”
“Yes, there is a challenge in that it is proving more difficult to export to some of the markets we previously exported to.”
He pointed out that Bord na Móna has opened a recycling facility in Littleton in partnership between AES Bord na Móna and the Sabrina Manufacturing Group.
This facility now recycles farm waste plastic, which had previously been exported, into plastic pellets that are used in the production of plastic films.
Currently, 24 people are employed at the facility, but it is intended to increase this number to 40, Coveney added.
“A submission is being prepared to increase the intake of waste plastics to 50,000 tonnes; this will see a further 20 jobs on top of that next year.”
“We are building capacity at home to recycle farm plastics in an environmentally sound way. There are also export options under a green category rather than the amber category, but it has to be cleaned first,” he concluded.
Image source: IFFPG