Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 July 2018

Opinion: Old tyres lurking at back of farm can now be added to our worry list

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

THERE was little to dampen farming spirits at Tullamore show, with the good weather allowing most farmers to be well on with work, and prices in many sectors better than this time last year.

You need days like this to get away from the day-to-day concerns of running a farm. Worries about how Brexit will play out, when the next unannounced Department inspection is due, what the weather is going to do after such a dry 12 months — these worries are a constant background soundtrack in most farmers’ minds.

Issues like what will ever happen if I need to dispose of all those old tyres at the back of the silage pit are ones that only rear their head the once in a blue moon that you are rooting around in the more neglected corners of your farm.

But at the rate that Minister Denis Naughten is going, discarded tyres may need to be added to the worry-list sooner rather than later.

He wants to tackle the issue of heaps of old tyres lying in ditches, fields and other places where, if not tackled, they will still be in 500 years time.

To do this, he has committed €1m to clean-up the “stockpiles that blight the countryside” as his press release puts it.

And fair play to the minister for, again in his own words, meeting the problem head on.


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The problem is that he is only allocating the money to local authorities without any provision for the thousands of farms around the country that have effectively been free dumping grounds for waste tyres for the last 50 years. Obviously there is no date of manufacture on the tyres at the back of my pit or anyone else’s, but just looking at the tiny front wheel tyres that would be more appropriate on a grey Fergusson rather than a modern Massey, I reckon that many of the tyres are at least half a century old.

They have become manky yokes in the intervening decades, with stinking water trapped inside that destroys you if you are in the wrong spot when the tyres are being flung off the pit.

We all had more of them than we really ever needed because they were free and a batch of nice clean ones was nicer to work with than the old ones that were over-grown with briars out the back.

The switch to round-bale silage for many has only worsened the surplus, and many farmers probably don’t even realise how many they have knocking around the place because they haven’t needed more than a handful in recent years.

So naturally, farmers were hopeful that this initiative by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment would allow them to wipe the slate clean and clear out a backlog.

Instead, Minister Naughten’s department has confirmed that the €1m will only be made available to county councils to clean up illegal dumps of tyres.

Effectively illegal dumpers are being rewarded with a free collection service over the coming months, while law-abiding farmers are left wondering how many thousand might it cost them to ever get rid of all their old tyres.

Charges of €3 have been tabled for car tyres, €12 for lorry tyres and as much as €30 for a rear tractor tyre. Doing the maths, it’s easy to see how a colossal bill could be in the pipeline for farmers looking to tackle the problem in their own backyard.

This situation will effectively incentivise unscrupulous farmers to avail of the funding by dumping their own unwanted tyres somewhere convenient for the local authority inspectors to find.

Equally unpalatable would be the vista of blazing infernos spewing out putrid

 black smoke at Halloween. I suspect many end up burying them quietly in the corner of a field and forget about them completely.

The other option is to stick the head in the sand and let the nettles keep growing up over them.

No incentive

But it wouldn’t surprise me if a “sustainable disposal record for unwanted tyres” became part of the myriad of Bord Bia quality assurance schemes that are continually upping the ante.

That’s when this whole thing will blow up again. But politics being what it is, there will be no incentive to deal with that problem until it becomes one.

Minister Naughten’s department estimates that there are more than 750,000 tyres randomly dumped in sites around the country, but I’d say that this is a gross under-estimate. Even if you took a tiny figure of 100 unwanted tyres for half of the livestock farms in the country, it would equate to five million tyres.

“I am targeting this funding at tyres to clean up our countryside now and to ensure that the detrimental environmental and human health effects of these dumps are dealt with as soon as possible,” said the Minister on announcing this initiative.

But how can he be serious if he ignores the biggest reser­voirs of tyres in the country?

Even though the Department has stated repeatedly this week that the scheme will not cover the collection of unwanted tyres from farmers, how else are we to interpret Mr Naughten’s claim that he wants to ensure that as many old tyres as possible are taken out of the system before October 1?

The only hope that farmers can cling to is that when the recycling of farm plastics became a requirement, money was discovered down the back of the couch to clear the backlog on farms.

Since then the vast majority of farmers are compliant with the system where they pay a collection levy when they buy the plastic that qualifies them to have it collected for little or no charge.

A fair solution and a fair system. Have a think about it Minister.

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