At the beginning of 2018, the Chinese market stopped taking seven million tonnes of plastic waste which has led to Ireland being “full of farm plastic with nowhere to go”, the blame of which lies with farming organisations according to the owner of the country’s biggest glass recycling plant.
Shragh native Jackie Whelan who recycles tyres and farm plastic at Tullagower Quarries highlighted to The Clare Echo that all home waste can be recycled properly in Ireland without the need to send to foreign countries as which currently happens with tyres.
“We have been recycling tyres for the last fourteen or fifteen years, 100 tyres on the block are squeezed in with a thousand tonne pressure, tied, put into a mould and concrete poured around them, we were making coastal erosion and sea blocks out of it, they were four tonne weight with a three tonne of concrete but the EPA stopped that because they maintained it wasn’t in the life’s use for the tyres. I had a chat with the EPA, I couldn’t persuade them it was in the life’s use but now they are paying us €189 a tonne to send them out to Vietnam and India, out of sight out of mind.
“All this stuff could be used at home, every bit of home waste could be recycled at home without sending it to any country, all that is going to happen long-term, the Chinese decided to stop taking plastic a few years ago, now the country is full of farm plastic with nowhere to go, the same thing is going to happen with the tyres in a few year’s time, when they find out what is going outside in Vietnam and India we’ll be left in the same position”.
Jackie felt this year more than ever the “plastic is a major problem” on Irish farms. He was annoyed by the lack of research done by those working in agriculture when it comes to the collection of plastic from their land. “I’m sick of talking to the people in the Government about it. The farmers’ organisations are who I blame for it, they should be seeing the way things are so tight the farmer only pays once for what he gets, once is enough to pay and if it’s not right you get your money back”.
At the start of the millennium, he and his wife Pauline took ownership of The Railway Bar in Ennis. The amount of “time wasted” organising glass by colour during recycling gave him another business idea. “Small pubs that couldn’t afford to have someone collecting glass were still going to dump it rather than bringing in small wheelie bins for it. I set up The Open Loop System where I could take any type of glass mix it all together and make sand out of it, there is a green tint in the sand because between Heineken bottle and green wine bottles you have more green than any other colour. We supplied that for horse gallops all over the country, sewerage and water treatments, we make decorated tables, black tops, it is used in graves, Cormac MacConnell wrote an article at the time and he said ‘wouldn’t it be lovely if you were fond of a tipple all your life and you died and this glass was spread over your grave you could be looking up at it’”.
That was a decade and a half ago but in the last two years they began turning plate glass and windscreens into white sand which is being used in bunkers on golf courses including Kilrush and has been approved in America and Scotland. Whelan admitted to manufacturing it “especially for Trump” because of its use in courses in the States but as Doonbeg is a links course they cannot use such sand.
Adare Manor have carried out samples of his sand, they are currently contracted to a French company but Jackie is hopeful when the renewal is up the 2026 Ryder Cup venue will change suppliers. “We use the green sand in the fairways, sand you can’t take out of the beach anymore, we can produce it to any grade required and we can give you white sand, snow white sand, green sand, black sand, we’re the only quarry in Ireland where you can get the three types of sand, it’s made from stone in the quarry”.