Speaking on Tyre Disposal ReportThat this Assembly approves the interim report of the Committee for the Environment on its inquiry into the management of used tyres in Northern Ireland and calls on the Minister of the Environment to bring forward a timetable for implementing the recommendations contained in the report.
Mr Beggs: As a former member of the Environment Committee, I remember coming across this issue a long time ago. I recognised at that time the potential for profiteering that could easily happen, it struck me, through the mishandling of the storage of tyres being recycled — or not recycled.
I welcome the report that the Committee has made and the conclusions it has come to. The issue of ensuring that all sites are licensed is important. The public needs to be wary where illegal, unlicensed sites are used. There is a need to inspect licensed sites to ensure that they stay within their bounds and do not grow beyond the approved capacity. Continuing to do that will be a big issue, not only in managing the storage on the sites but, ultimately, there needs to be an economic solution that processes them. There is no solution if it is profitable to illegally dispose of the tyres and, on occasion, to have an accidental fire; there must be an economic solution. We all must work towards the development of that so that energy is reused in a constructive fashion. For instance, Lafarge Cement’s Cookstown plant utilises some of that energy, but other methods must be found.
Something that I wish to highlight a little bit more in detail is the hazardous nature of tyres when they burn. Some people have mentioned it. The uncontrolled burning of tyres causes huge damage to local communities. I remember attending, a number of years ago, an Arc21 briefing on energy from waste sites. I was very struck by an almost throwaway comment after a slide; the expert said that fewer carcinogenic compounds were produced by a professionally run and monitored energy-from-waste site than would be produced by a small illegal bonfire with a lot of tyres thrown on it. We need to educate everyone about the damage that is happening to the local communities and the environment when tyres are burnt on bonfires. It is not insignificant. The release of those carcinogenic compounds into the local community must be avoided. As others have said, there is also the issue of the intense heat that can result and the damage that it causes to the immediate community. In my area, there has been a vast improvement in how cultural bonfire sites are managed, and all credit to all those involved.
I was shocked to learn about the illegal sites. I think that one million tyres were burned at one of those sites. Let us not focus on all the small bonfires, of which there is a relatively small number; there are some huge sites with hundreds of thousands of tyres being stored, some legally and some illegally. Ultimately, they need to be processed. We must not create a system in which there is a financial benefit to illegally storing tyres on a site and having them burnt. You have to spend perhaps tens of thousands of pounds to get rid of the waste that is left. Maybe you can get money at the end of it. We must ensure that there are not financial incentives for the illegal storage and burning of tyres.
A system of recycling should be put in place. What happens to the £1•22, on average, that is paid when a tyre is disposed of? We must ensure that that money is used as was intended and that it does not simply appear as profit somewhere. We must ensure that those who benefit from it actually use it towards recycling the tyre rather than abusing the environment and profiteering from that contribution. Ultimately, there has to be an economic solution to ensure that the flow of moneys is virtuous and not corrupting. At one point, cars were being abandoned and burnt, which caused problems for the environment. There is now a virtuous cycle, in which there is economic benefit to those who recycle cars. It is important that that circle is also progressed in the world of tyres and that proper and well-managed businesses benefit.
I welcome the Committee’s report.