Dáil debates regulation of the waste industry

The Taoiseach has committed to the introduction of a waste 'watchdog'

Dáil debates regulation of the waste industry

File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Dáil has been debating Fianna Fáil's motion for an independent regulator for the waste industry.

It follows anger over a new new plan, announced last week, that will see the end of flat-rate standard charges - as well as the minimum per-kilogram charge that was introduced a year ago.

Waste collectors will now be asked to offer a range of incentivised pricing plans in a bid to encourage households to reduce and recycle their waste.

However, the system has been slammed by opposition parties - who have insisted it will simply open the doors for waste collection companies to effectively charge whatever they want.

Sinn Féin say the Government is showing little concern for ordinary households in its approach, and is calling for bin charges to be stopped immediately.

Speaking during the debate, the party's environment spokesperson says Fianna Fáil have failed the people with its motion tonight - which only calls for regulation.

The Taoiseach has committed to the introduction a waste 'watchdog' following the outcry.

Leo Varadkar said the Government reserves the right to intervene in the market and regulate prices if need be.

Speaking in the Dáil ahead of the debate, Mr Varadkar said many households should see no difference in bin charges - but recognised that some are fearful:

"We understand that that concern exists and there is a legitimate fear that the public may have," he said.

"So we have agreed to put in place a watchdog - a watchdog which will monitor prices - and we do reserve the right as a government bring in price regulation if the industry hikes prices or uses this change as a cover from which to hike prices dramatically."

On Tuesday morning, he said over half the homes in the country already pay for their bins either per-kilogram or for every time they are lifted:

"What there is, is a change to a new system of how bin charges of calculated," he said. "Moving away from a flat charge that people pay once a year to pay-by-weight or pay-by-lift."

"In fact half of the country already is on that system so most people - or at least half of the people in the country - are very used to it."

Fianna Fáil is also calling for increased funding for local authorities to combat illegal dumping and pay for clean-ups.

Its environment spokesperson, Timmy Dooley, said many of the approximately 60 collection companies in the state use the same facilities to destroy their waste.

"There are some who believe there is potential for collusion to take place, perhaps some price-fixing, and that is of great concern to us because there are some of our rural areas, as you know, where there is no competition in the market place and consumers feel in those areas that they will be targeted," he said.

"We are also deeply concerned about the impact that will have on the environment.

"We have seen an increase in fly-tipping and any increase in charges has the potential for that to grow."

Growing opposition

Sinn Féin has claimed that the Fianna Fáil motion is simply a "spoiler" designed to get the government off the hook - and has called for the new regime to be scrapped altogether.

Separately, campaigners have pledged to put the same level of energy that was devoted to the anti-water campaign into defeating the new bin-charging regime.

The Solidarity Party has called for a mass boycott of the new system.

Tuesday's Cabinet meeting was postponed due the visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Dublin.

Ministers reportedly held a tele-conference meeting last night to discuss their counter to Fianna Fáil's motion.