The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has told an Oireachtas committee that a derogation for farmers to burn green waste will be reinstated.

Under the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009, the burning of household, garden, commercial or industrial waste is illegal.

However, an exemption under the legislation had been provided to farmers for the burning of certain waste from September 1 to February 28.

This included untreated/uncontaminated wood, trees, trimmings, leaves, bushes or similar materials generated by agricultural practices.

Concerns have been raised across the agriculture sector after it was recently revealed that the exemption had lapsed on January 1, 2022, meaning that farmers would no longer be allowed to burn green waste.

This afternoon (Wednesday, February 2) in a statement to Agriland , the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications confirmed that the exemption allowing farmers to burn green waste is “currently under review”.

“The burning of green waste is a matter of concern and leads to localised air pollution. More broadly, health problems associated with air pollution are widely known,” a spokesperson for the department added.

Green waste

Addressing the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine this evening (February 2), Minister McConalogue said he had been engaging with Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan on the issue in recent days.

“I’m glad to be able to report that Minister Ryan will be providing the derogation for farmers to be able to burn that scrub,” McConalogue outlined.

“We will engage in terms looking at future options for alternatives that may be possible in the years ahead.

“But it is an important management tool and I’m grateful to Minister Ryan in terms of recognising the importance of providing that derogation and ensuring that it is available, outside of the nesting season of course,” he commented.

“It’s an important facility for farmers which they do use in a balanced way in my view,” the minister said.

In advance of the meeting, the chair of the committee, Jackie Cahill stated that “common sense” must prevail on the matter.

“The suggestion that a machine could come onto someone’s farm and carry out this work is nonsensical. It would be both impractical and prohibitively expensive for a shredder to be brought onto each farm.

“With fields potentially inaccessible at this time of year for such works, and the fuel costs associated with transporting such a machine from one farm to the next, this suggestion is simply not a runner,” the Tipperary TD remarked.

Earlier today, Senator Paul Daly told the Seanad that the issue is “causing major concern for farmers across the country”.

“Many farmers usually stockpile this waste and wait until closer to February 28, to burn it. These farmers have now been left in a catch-22 situation. It has come as a surprise to farmers and even local authorities themselves that this exemption has expired,” Daly commented.