Donohoe blames opposition for privatisation of waste collection

Opposition parties claim the new bin charges scheme will see collectors charging exorbitant prices

Donohoe blames opposition for privatisation of waste collection

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe arriving at Dublin Castle today for the National Economic Dialogue. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

The Minister for Finance has hit out at opposition parties over the ongoing controversy on the government’s new bin charges scheme.

The scheme, aiming to introduce a “more flexible framework” for waste collection charges is due to come into force this weekend.

Announcing the scheme, Environment Minister Dennis Naughten said the new system is aimed at diverting waste away from dumps and encouraging recycling.

It will scrap the minimum per-kilogram charge that was previously introduced and allow waste collectors to offer a range of incentivised pricing plans.

Opposition parties have slammed the scheme, accusing the minister of opening the doors for waste collection companies - who hold an effective monopoly - to effectively charge whatever they want.

Privatisation of waste collection 

Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have announced plans to table motions in the Dáil on the issue – however, this afternoon Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe accused them of supporting policies that “got us to a point where no local authority will pick up waste.”

“The same people made it impossible for local authorities to be able to afford to pick up waste,” he said.

“They opposed local authorities charging rates to allow waste collection to be affordable.

“That is one of the reasons now why not a single local authority in the country now picks up waste.

“They are now the same people who are saying, the private sector has no role in it either – well, if that is the case, who is going to pick it up?”

Minister Donohoe insisted that the new scheme will encourage recycling adding that the government will consider other options if waste collectors are seen to be unfairly raising rates.

"Breath-taking level of indifference"

Sinn Féin has insisted the scheme will undoubtedly lead to higher prices and accused the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of showing a “breath-taking level of indifference towards hard pressed citizens, consumers and families who are struggling to make ends meet.”

The party this afternoon published a Private Members Bill on the charges which it will bring before the Dáil next Wednesday.

The party’s environment spokesperson, Brian Stanley accused the government of attempting to introduce a “punitive” new scheme towards the end of the Dáil term in an attempt to avoid scrutiny.

Mr Stanley called on the government to immediately withdraw the proposed new system and consider returning waste collection to public ownership with increased regulatory control.

The Sinn Féin motion “affirms that the collection of household waste is a basic public service that is essential for healthy living and maintaining a safe and clean environment.”

“Those with medical conditions and disabilities, large families and low income households will bear the brunt of the government’s decision to allow private operators to charge whatever they want for an essential service,” said Mr Stanley.

“The government’s present position of simply leaving those people to the mercy of commercial operators is unacceptable.”

Independent waster regulator

Fianna Fáil meanwhile has called for the new charging system to be frozen until an independent waster regulator can be established.

The party’s environment spokesperson said there is “deep unease and concern right across the country” that the plan will “lead to rocketing prices.”

“A Waste Regulator is desperately needed to ensure that there is no price gouging and fixing in the industry, and to ensure that consumers have a body to complain to if they have issues with their operator,” he said.

He warned that without consumer buy-in to the scheme, the government risks seeing an increase in illegal dumping.

Fly-tipping

Independent Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke said fly-tipping is already a serious issue in Dublin’s north inner city and warned that the new regime will only aggravate the problem.

He said a flat complex that is due to be demolished at Croke Villas just beside Croke Park in the city is a constant target for illegal dumping with people driving by in cars and throwing bags over the wall.

“They see this area as a handy touch,” he said. “When the city council protected and secured the other couple of blocks here with plebiscite fencing, there were remarks made by people pulling up in cars to say, ‘where do they expect me to dump my rubbish?”

“The residents here are outraged at the ongoing illegal dumping.”

The new charging system is due to come in from Saturday July 1st – however the Dáil will continue to debate the issue next week.