Stockpiles Of Farm Plastic Now Becoming A Threat To Our Environment – Michael Lowry TD

Stockpiles Of Farm Plastic Now Becoming A Threat To Our Environment – Michael Lowry TD

IFFPG are a ‘not for profit’ body approved by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to run the national farm plastic recycling scheme. Farmers understand and appreciate the necessity to properly dispose of farm plastic because of it’s potential to inflict huge damage on the environment. Farmers fully cooperate and are willing participants in the scheme. At present, all producers of farm plastic participate in IFFPG by paying a levy per ton of plastic sold on the Irish Market. The scheme then collects the waste plastic from farmers by way of farm collections or more typically ‘bring collection centres,’ where farmers bring their plastic and are charged by weight. A third source of income in previous years has been the resale price of plastic to third party recycling facilities outside the jurisdiction.

Stockpiles Of Farm Plastic Now Becoming A Threat To Our Environment - Michael Lowry TD

Michael Lowry TD

The farm waste plastic market underwent a dramatic shift in January 2017, when the Chinese recycling market closed abruptly. There are other recycling facilities available in Europe which IFFPG and other private operators cannot afford to access. We have this ludicrous situation because Ireland is the ONLY country in Europe whose regulator has designated this type of plastic as amber waste. The current Irish designation is amber, which attracts significant stringent transport requirements and charges. These regulations are imposed by the Trans-frontier Shipping Office in Dublin City Council. In contrast the status across Europe is that farm plastic is designated ‘green’ and enjoys free movement with no additional costs.

A combination of closure of the exports to China and the non-viability of transfer to other European recycling centres due to self-imposed costly regulation has left alarming stockpiles of plastic in the hands of IFFPG and private businesses. It is now inevitable that such plastic will have to be exported from the jurisdiction to be recycled at a considerable loss.

There is no Irish recycling facility equipped to deal with significant levels of farm plastic recycling. As a result, we now have an enormous amount of plastic sitting in gigantic piles in several locations around the country. These massive mountains of plastics are growing daily and ironically have become a threat to the environment.

During its tenure, IFFPG has collected quantities of waste farm plastic in excess of its target. It is currently collecting approximately 70% of available plastic. The balance of the plastics on the market are collected by private Irish businesses. These independent operators are subject to the same regulation as IFFPG but do not receive any portion of the financial levy paid by farmers. This is not fair or equitable and leaves the independent operators at a financial disadvantage.

In circumstances where IFFPG have substantial net assets, and have cash to hand in excess of €3.7 million, why haven’t they been tasked with the role of establishing an Irish recycling facility or supporting a private sector initiative. I suggest it would be logical for the monies held by IFFPG to be appropriated by the Government for such use.

In light of the current market conditions, does the government acknowledge that it is time for a policy review in respect of farm plastics, including:

  • Establishing a strategy for building a national farm plastic recycling facility.

  • Reviewing the export status of farm plastic.

  • Ensuring the equitable distribution of the producers levy amongst all licensed assemblers and shippers of plastic, in circumstances where IFFPG benefit from 100% of the levy on all farm plastic, but even on their own figures, only manage to collect 70%.

The Government needs to acknowledge that its waste management policy in respect of farm plastic over the last 20 years has been an exercise in short term thinking, dealing only with the collection of farm plastic with no long term strategy for creating a national farm plastic recycling facility as part of that strategy.

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