About a third of imported scrap tyres pass through the port in Limassol without being subject to an environmental fee, while thousands of tyres end up in illegal landfills, MPs heard on Thursday.
Scrap tyres are burned in kilns and used as fuel by the cement factory at Vassilikos.
An estimated 700,000 to 800,000 tyres are imported every year. But the precise number is not known because around one third are not subject to checks at the port of entry – the harbour in Limassol.
The matter was looked into by the auditor-general, who prepared a special report, discussed at the House watchdog committee.
Officials there said 65 per cent of tyres come from non-EU countries, and as such the cargos go through customs checks and the environmental fee is paid before the items are released to the market.
But the remaining 35 per cent are imported from the EU; and under the agreement between the government and the private operators at the port of Limassol, the latter are not required to check whether the environmental fee has been paid.
Diko MP Zacharias Koulias said that within a month a solution must be found on how to handle tyres imported from EU countries. This should not be too difficult, as the cargo manifest is available to all parties concerned.
Akel’s Costas Costa said MPs learned that each year around €100,000 is lost through the non-imposition of the environmental fee.
Over a period of five years since the privatisation of the commercial activities at Limassol port, this amounted to €500,000 but “no one is sweating about it,” he noted.
The tyres that don’t go through these import checks end up in the countryside in illegal landfills.
Irini Charalambidou, also an MP with Akel, observed that the loophole in the port privatisation deal was noted as far back as 2017.
For its part, the Audit Office said that the government pays Vassiliko Cement Works in advance for the tyres it uses for burning. The company is paid a fee for managing the waste.
But an audit found that the company has received €500,000 in these management fees without actually processing the corresponding tyres. The Audit Office therefore recommends that from now on a part of the fee payable to the company be held back until the company provides proof of completion.