Proposed RTP compounding plant faces opposition in Ireland

By: Frank Esposito By: Don Loepp

December 18, 2018

RTP Co. is being challenged in its attempt to build a compounding plant in Ireland.

Winona, Minn.-based RTP, a major global compounder, has submitted plans to build a plant in Skibbereen, a town of about 3,000 less than 10 miles from Ireland’s southern coast. The 16,000-square-foot plant would create as many as 40 new jobs.

The plant is opposed by Save Our Skibbereen, a protest group that’s concerned about the environmental impact of the plant.

“I think more and more people are seeing that this is not what we want in West Cork,” said Brendan McCarthy, former mayor of the Skibbereen Town Council, who leads the protest group. He spoke in a Dec. 3 radio interview with Cork Today.

Save our Skibbereen has attracted local and international attention. More than 6,000 area residents have signed a petition opposing the RTP plant. Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons, who owns a historic castle in the area, also has publicly opposed the project.

“My God, we need jobs in Skibbereen, but let us not desecrate this jewel of an area by allowing [a] polluting manufacture to poison our environment,” Irons wrote. “Let us question the process of democratic planning before we force the children and adults of Skibbereen to live their lives beneath a toxic plume, while outsiders manufacture a product which much of the world is trying to cut down on.”

The plant won initial approval from the Cork County Council in December 2017, but Save Our Skibbereen appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanala, a national building commission. Against the recommendation of its own inspector, that board rejected the appeal and 
approved the project on Dec. 3. Now the protest group wants to appeal to Ireland’s High Court.

McCarthy was disappointed with An Bord Pleanala’s decision, in light of growing public interest in plastic pollution. In the radio interview, he talked about the BBC documentary “Blue Planet,” which has helped spur global action on marine debris.

“This year of all years, I was kind of optimistically telling myself that, ‘Gee, this is the best year ever to be appealing a decision [to approve construction of] a plastics factory, with the whole world talking about plastics and the need for humans to change our ways,’” McCarthy said.

RTP officials have declined to comment on the case. Danny Miles, the firm’s head of European operations, was quoted in one article saying that RTP “welcomes the decision by [ABP] to approve planning permission for our project, and we thank them for taking the time to provide such a thorough review.”

Local news reports have noted that RTP President and CEO Hugh Miller’s wife, Vera Daly, comes from West Cork. RTP does business in Ireland as Daly Products Ltd.

SOS stepped up its criticism of the proposed plant in June, when organizers issued a statement saying that they believed the plant was “ill advised, badly planned and has not been subjected to the necessary and rigorous tests of suitability that Skibbereen and West Cork deserve.”

“We believe it will impact terribly on our air, our water, our environment and on our future,” they added. “We believe that it is going to harm existing jobs and deter future businesses and tourists from considering Skibbereen as their preferred destination.

“It is our hope that An Bord Pleanala refuse permission for this development and we await their decision,” organizers said. “If that decision allows this factory to proceed, we will be investigating all possible legal challenges available to us.”

SOS has scheduled a public meeting on the topic for Dec. 13 in Skibbereen.

RTP has been active in Europe, opening a new plant in Poland earlier this year. The firm also has European plants in France and Germany.

The SOS website has a video of a fire that took place at the RTP site in Beaune, France, in late October. Organizers are concerned that a similar fire could happen at the proposed plant in Skibbereen.

RTP officials said the French fire took place in a warehouse and not in a production area. No one was injured in the fire, they added, and production was not affected very much.

Plastics & Rubber World Editor Julian Buckley contributed to this report.