Minister of State Ossian Smyth has said he does not expect a further exemption on the burning of agricultural green waste beyond January 2023.

The Minister of State with responsibility for Communications and Circular Economy was responding on the matter raised by Senator Victor Boyhan in the Seanad today (Tuesday, May 17).

In relation to the derogation of burning green waste which was extended, for the fifth time, until January 2023 earlier this year, the minister of state said:

“It was never intended that the exemption would extend in perpetuity and I anticipate that this will be the final extension.”

Senator Boyhan, who is also a member of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said there is concern among farm organisations and small farmers who would like to see this derogation extended.

Feasibility study

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has engaged with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) on this matter, and agreed to conduct a feasibility study which is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2022.

The aim of the study is to establish alternative measures to the burning of agricultural green waste within the Irish context, and to assess the practicality of these alternatives, the minister of state said.

The outcome of the study will result in a report which will lead to the decision whether an extra extension to the exemption is needed or not, he explained.

Alternative practices carried out in regions comparable to Ireland that are viable, practical and environmentally sustainable will be considered, and a public stakeholder consultation will be included.

The minister of state commented:

“This study will help inform appropriate policy actions to take in order to establish alternative measures to burning on Irish farms.”

He added that the issue of air pollution caused by this practice is well established and is addressed in the draft Clean Air Strategy, which identifies and promotes the integrated actions required to reduce air pollution.

Senator Boyhan called on the minister of state to conduct proactive discussion and engagement with the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

He also said that representatives of farm organisations and communities should be included in a review and the establishment of alternative practices.

Burning exemption

Under the Waste Management Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning Regulations 2009, the minister of state said, it is an offence to dispose of waste by uncontrolled burning.

The exemption provides for the permissible disposal of agricultural waste by burning under certain conditions including, amongst others, where the material to be burned consists of uncontaminated wood, trees, tree trimmings, leaves, bushes and other similar waste.

The relevant local authority must also be informed in advance of the intention to burn agricultural green waste, according to the minister of state.

He added that such burning must only be done as a final measure, following the application of the waste hierarchy whereby reuse, recycling and other recovery of waste are preferred options of disposal.