THE state's 7,000 unused electronic voting machines could end up being turned into "traffic cones or fleeces".
The machines, which were bought eight years ago at a cost of €50m, will now have to be shredded and recycled at an additional cost to the taxpayer after the Government received "no serious offers" to buy them.
Last night, the country's largest specialist electrical disposal company said it would be very interested in bidding if the Government decided to put the disposal of the e-voting machines out to tender.
Asset Management Ireland business development manager Keith Pryde said it would be possible to make useful products from the recyclable materials contained in the e-voting machines.
"They would probably come back as traffic cones or fleeces," he said.
However, disposing of the machines in an environmentally friendly manner would come at a cost to the taxpayer.
It costs around €25 to €30 to dispose of a large computer through the recycling and shredding process. On this figure alone, it would cost between €175,000 and €210,000 to dispose of the 7,000 e-voting machines.
But Mr Pryde said it would be impossible to put a figure on the final cost until the machines were examined to see what materials they contained.
He said it would be illegal to dispose of the machines by dumping them in a landfill site due to the EU's WEEE directive.
"And it would be more expensive -- your landfill tax is horrendous," he said.
Mr Pryde, whose company has bases in Belfast and Dublin, estimated that the 7,000 machines could be safely disposed of within six weeks in a "worst-case scenario".
The news came as Taoiseach Brian Cowen admitted during Leader's Questions in the Dail yesterday that the money spent on the e-voting machines was gone.
Government records state that all inquiries made to date about the e-voting machines have been "general in nature and would certainly not constitute serious offers to buy or acquire the equipment".
The Department of Environment has admitted that it remained a "realistic possibility that none of the investment will be recovered".
"Nevertheless, the Government charged ahead and spent €50m on them," he said.
The machines have cost a further €3m to store in an air hangar in Co Meath and various locations around the country.