In Ireland the refuse collection is practically all privatised now since the County Councils decided to collectively withdraw from offering a public collection system. Many of then cited that the market was unfair with councils backed by state money biding for waste contracts against private operators. This in my view is just a cop out statement to make, as why would it just be household refuse collection that councils saw fit to pull out of, what about public parks maintenance, or public kerb side bin collections all of these and many more that the council maintains all have private operators that would really like to bid for those contracts.

So councils very much led the way with encouraging households to recycle their waste and by doing so reduce their waste charges. Since they exited the market so fast that they left the private guys in a cyclone of confusion on charges. Private companies that won tenders for refuse collection from different councils were requested to honor the pricing structure the council had in place often for a twelve month period. Once that probationary period passed then the charges started to escalate, especially with pay per weight collectors. Then an existing company City Bin announced a €15 million partnership with  Averda it’s first entry into Europe and will result in the roll out of a major European expansion over the coming years with Ireland as the company’s European headquarters.  Minister for the Environment etc Phil Hogan was thrilled about the investment saying “In launching the Government’s new waste policy last July, I was ensuring that the industry could make investment decisions with policy certainty.” This was supposed to mean that refuse companies could proceed with enlarging and even providing new recycling centers to deal with household waste as the Minister ensured in the regulations that refuse collectors would have to incentivise households to segregate their waste. Stating that reducing waste reduced the cost for having it removed.

However Minister Hogan said nothing of City Bin’s flat rate charging system which for the first year was just €99 for all 3 bins, brilliant why would anyone not sign up when other refuse companies were charging  €300 upwards. And with the ink hardly dry on the regulations, what was €99 going to do for incentivisation? So year two came around and it went up to €180 but was reduced to €160 if paid early but always up front, not suitable for many struggling families who live week to week.

Now we have Greyhound initially threatening all the waiver customers some 33K it inherited from Dublin city council, that come January 2014 it too will only be offering a flat rate of €12.50 a month totaling to €150 pa. This cohort of people needed to be very mindful of recycling in the past in order to keep their costs down, and for many this meant only presenting the Black bin 3 to 4 times a year for collection, hence their charges were in or around   €70 pa. I went on Joe Duffy’s (25 min point) Live Line program to draw attention to this, and many disgruntled ex waiver customers also phoned in to complain. This problem was ignored by Minister Hogan with City Bin’s Averda take over and is being ignored again by him with Greyhound. That said my mother in Dublin 7 a previous waiver customer of Greyhounds was sent a letter recently giving her the option to choose to stay on the current incentivisation charging system or change to the Flat Rate costing twice as much.

I am not seeking to attack Greyhound far from it they are getting it in the neck with City Bin taking a lot of its customers, and in so doing then jeopradising Greyhounds work force cancelling any gain City Bin had in offering 35 jobs with Averda’s backing. In fact the Panda’s and the Thornton’s and AES’s of this world are also suffering likewise as while they increase their recycling plant sizes and wrangle with the costs of doing so, seeing mixed household waste leaving Ireland bound for Heat Recovery / Incineration plants in Sweden but at a much lower cost than recovering the waste here although perfectly legal by EU regulations, goes completely against Minister Hogans regulations of July 2012. I have written to minister Hogan asking that he clarify this, and so far I have just received a mail from his private secretary that he will be in touch with me shortly, we will see.

So back to my opening question of ‘Who benefits from a Flat rate charging system?’   Well for the operator it has been proven and documented that when this system if offered the levels of contamination in each of the 3 recycle bins reduces significantly almost to the point of not being of any concern, as since all bins cost the same their is no gain to the householder to try to hide waste in the cheapest bin. However recycling rates plummet also as again why would a householder bother to segregate waste when there is no need or incentive to do so.

For the householder however incentivisation is the only way to see a direct saving by segregating waste, and minimising the presentation of the black bin to the absolute minimum. For me in Fingal by doing just this my refuse costs with Panda are in fact far less than the City Bin offering of €160, if one needs proof and payments are spread over the year too.

The waste industry is going to have to work together and introduce the ‘Clampers’ style sharp shock approach to households knowingly contaminating their waste bins to save on costs, but destroying the recyclability of that waste and the rest of the segregated waste in that truck as a result. A small truck that can be called upon by a refuse collector when they suspect a household of continually contaminating their bin, and when proven the bin is removed and a fine issued. Bin then returned only when fine is paid. This truck can also spot check every day of the week randomly following any bin lorry, and as it would be an independent company that is carrying out the checks there would be no inclination to move to another refuse company, in fact all refuse companies would be alerted to the households crime and no collector would take them on.

The fines would easily pay for the crew and just like the clampers threat when you consider parking illegally, you always have that tummy sensation of if you get caught its gonna cost you.

Denis Lawlor

Brown Bin Rescue.ie

Minister Phil Hogan