Opposition parties slam new bin charges scheme

The Green Party has warned the system will allow waste collectors to effectively charge “whatever they want”

Opposition parties slam new bin charges scheme

File photo: RollingNews

Opposition parties have slammed the government’s new bin charges regime insisting the system will open the doors for waste collectors to effectively charge “whatever they want.”

The Minister for the Environment, Dennis Naughten yesterday confirmed that a new “more flexible framework” for waste collection charges has received Cabinet approval.

The new system will scrap the minimum per-kilogram charge that was introduced a year ago and allow waste collectors to offer a range of incentivised pricing plans.

Options on the table for waste collectors include standing charges and per-lift or per-kilogram charges - as well as weight-bands or weight allowance charges.

A mandatory 'one size fits all' model will not be introduced, and ‘all-in flat-rate’ charging will be organically phased out as customers renew or enter contracts.

This morning, Newstalk Breakfast heard from both Minister Naughten and the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on the new system.

Landfill capacity

The Minister said the new system is entirely aimed at diverting waste away from dumps and encourage recycling, as the country faces up to a serious shortfall in landfill capacity.

He said the government had decided against introducing a standard per-kilogram bin charge because “different family circumstances generate different volumes of weight.”

“An older person may generate a very small amount of waste and having a very large standing charge and a small lift charge doesn’t suit them,” he said.

“It may be the exact opposite in relation to a large family.”

He said members of the public could “shop around” between different operators to find the best deal for their family circumstances.

“The operators out there have a number of charging schemes already in place that are based on the more you use the bin the more you pay,” he said.

“The objective here is that people that segregate more and that produce less waste will end up paying less for their bins.”

Effective monopoly

Green party leader Eamon Ryan said that while he supports the concept of pay-by-weight charging; the government’s approach will allow waste collectors to set their own rates and charging systems.

He insisted the minister is effectively introducing a pay-by-weight system while “just leaving it up to the market” to set the rates.

“He is actually not controlling it; he is just opening the doors to the businesses to do whatever they want effectively and that is my main concern,” he said.

“Just to leave this to the market and leave customers in the grips of companies that have an effective monopoly – I don’t think it is fair on consumers.”

Local authority bidding

Mr Ryan called for local authorities to open up a bidding process for each area – meaning each area would have a single waste collector at the most competitive rate.

“The local authority would say, ‘here is the standard of collection we want, here is the charging regime we want’ and allow companies bid in to do that business for them,” he said.

“Or indeed the local authority [could] go back to providing the service themselves.”

He also called for a ban on non-recyclable packaging and the introduction of a refund system on bottles and cans.

The new system has also come in for criticism from both Sinn Féin and Solidarity.

Donald Trump economics

Sinn Féin environment spokesperson Brian Stanley told the Pat Kenny Show that the new system is based on “Donald Trump style economics” adding that it simply won’t work:

“This is the economics and the politics of Donald Trump or Theresa May,” he said. “That is what this looks like.”

“Let me tell you one group that is going to be badly affected. A low-paid worker with a few children in nappies who is in private rented accommodation, who can’t get onto a local authority waiting list, who can’t get a mortgage – they are going to be saddled with this now.”

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger meanwhile, called for the reversal of the privatisation of bin collection.

You can listen back to Minister Naughten and Eamon Ryan’s appearance on Newstalk Breakfast here: