Large quantities of car tires, which are transported by European countries, are not recorded during their import in Cyprus and when they need to be replaced, they are in the market without having been prepaid for the appropriate environmental management fee, thus being discarded uncontrollably. This is a large number that corresponds to 35% of the tires that are imported and no one knows where they end up. This is due to the fact that 12,000 tons of old tires have been accumulated in the Vasilikos Cement Factory. The Audit Office has expressed its concern about the dangers posed by the accumulation of such a large stock of tire waste, which, as it points out, is not merely theoretical but real, since a fire has already been observed in a tire stock at the Cement Factory.
Significant gaps arise with the tire waste management system (TMS) and concern the collection, transport, temporary storage and reuse and recovery of waste.
Examining a special report from the Audit Office on tire waste management, the parliamentary Audit Committee was faced with four serious problems, such as those developed by Audit Director Akis Kikas. Specifically, he stated that the Department of Environment carries out inadequate controls and does not exercise sufficient supervision over the collective SDAE. The second issue concerns the problems that arose with the privatization of the commercial part of the port of Limassol, and the absence of an agreement between the Government and the managers in the contracts that were signed and therefore no control is carried out before the tires leave the port and therefore is not paid. environmental fee.
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At the same time, reference was made to the fact that in the facilities of Vasilikos Cement Factory, there were huge volumes of glass and tires, which were received by the Cement Factory for management and for which the relevant fee was paid. The Audit Office requests a re-evaluation of the payment of the tire management fee, so that the entire amount is not prepaid before the end of their management. On this issue, the Auditor General Odysseas Michailidis characteristically stated that “the problem is that the person in charge is paid for what he has to do, before he does it”. According to Mr. Kikas, for the tires that are in stock in the Cement Factory, and reach 12,000 tons, the company received a management fee of approximately € 500 thousand, without having proceeded to their management. “We are concerned about the huge amount that has accumulated as fires break out,” he said, adding that the fee for tires that may burn by mistake must be returned.
The fourth problem concerns the cost by the state for the transportation and integrated waste management of tires, which were stored in the industrial zone of Idali and Agios Sozomenos, without recovering the cost of € 490 thousand from the company that owned the tires.
According to the Audit Office, the environmental tax is transferred to the consumer, through the cost of purchasing the tires, and varies depending on the size, from € 0.80 in the saloon to € 48 for the very large tires.
There are currently two collective systems on the market, RTM Tires Recycling Ltd and E4C Ltd. The representatives of both systems agreed that the big problem lies in the lack of control of the environmental fee in the port of Limassol.
It is noted that 65% of the tires are imported from third countries, and therefore the consignments are subject to customs control and the relevant environmental tax is paid. However, for the remaining 35% of the tires coming from EU member states, the port management companies have no obligation to control the payment of the environmental fee and do not undertake to provide this service on behalf of the state.
The official of the Department of Environment, Chrystalla Nisiotou, referred to the case of the company that undertook to transport tires for temporary storage in Agios Sozomenos, noting that “it proved to be unreliable”. He added that tires were found at the scene that did not correspond to environmental tax receipts, which raises suspicions that the company was transporting tires that were not included in the agreement. He pointed out that the state had borne the cost of moving the tires to the Vasilikos Cement Factory and is now in court to recover the costs.
The State Guarantee Supervisor pointed out that if this amount is not recovered, it will constitute illegal state aid.
The Environment Officer at the Ports Authority, Katerina Dokou, stated that before the privatization of the ports, the Authority reported on all cargo coming out of the port and therefore knew the Department of the Environment for all tire imports. He added that after that, the Ministry of Transport did not conclude an agreement with the private companies and they no longer provide information. The Ministry of Transport, which signed these contracts, must be called upon to find a solution.
The General Manager of Vasilikos Cement Factory, George Savva stated that the tires are used as alternative fuels and contribute to the reduction of emissions. He claimed that the stock of tires that have not yet been managed, resulted from the accumulation of material from the quarry and will take five years to eliminate.
Parliament seeks to find alternative ways to manage tires
The chairman of the Audit Committee and MP of DIKO, Zacharias Koulias, underlined that in a period of one month the possibility for control of imports from Community countries should be considered, through the import declaration (manifesto), which indicates the type of cargo, since is available to all organizations and services through the Port Authority system. He requested that the Ministry of Transport, the Port Authority, the Customs Department and the Department of the Environment be consulted for this purpose. “It is necessary”, as he said, “creation of a specialized control mechanism by the Department of Environment” for this purpose. He also noted that it is good to find alternative ways of managing the tires, in addition to their utilization at the Vasilikos Cement Factory for energy production.
DISY MP Rita Superman said that the Department of Environment has scientifically trained staff, who “exaggerate themselves, but need support because the service is understaffed.” He concluded that once a problem was identified, a solution would have to be found.
AKEL MP, Costas Costa, stressed that the issue should be addressed by the Ministry of Transport, which signed the contract with the management companies in the port of Limassol, leaving gaps in the control of tire loads. “We have heard that at least € 100,000 a year is lost, that is, half a million in the five years since the contract came into force, but no one is sweating,” he said. He added that the ecological catastrophe is also great, as those who escape the environmental tax, discard the old tires in the countryside, creating illegal garbage dumps.
AKEL MP, Irini Charalambidou, reminded that the Legal Service had clarified from the beginning that the contracts signed for the management of the Limassol port by private companies, had not been audited and had elements that were to the detriment of the public interest. “One such element,” he said, “is the fact that contracts do not include a safeguard condition for controlling the payment of an environmental fee before the tires are placed on the market.”
The MP of Ecologists, Charalambos Theopemptou, described the contract with the companies in the port of Limassol as tragic. He noted the need to find a second tire management company, in addition to Vasiliko, citing companies interested in cracking fuel. He also raised the issue of operation and state burner for such purposes.