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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Plan to cap bin charges in doubt over enforcement

Paul Melia, Andrew Phelan and Kevin Doyle

Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30

Minister Simon Coveney arrives at Tallaght Civic Offices.
Minister Simon Coveney arrives at Tallaght Civic Offices.

Waste collectors have proposed freezing bin charges for the next 12 months in an effort to convince households they are not being ripped off.

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The Irish Waste Management Association, which represents most of the bigger players, has proposed a year-long price freeze amid controversy about some families being forced to pay hugely inflated bills under the new pay-by-weight system, which has seen some bills doubling.

The Irish Waste Management Association has proposed a year-long price freeze amid controversy about some families being forced to pay hugely inflated bills under the new pay-by-weight system. Collins
The Irish Waste Management Association has proposed a year-long price freeze amid controversy about some families being forced to pay hugely inflated bills under the new pay-by-weight system. Collins

However, two of the country's biggest operators - City Bin and Greyhound - are not members of the association, and it is unclear if the freeze can be enforced.

It comes amid growing uncertainty as to whether the new pay-by-weight bin charges system will go ahead as proposed from July 1, or be delayed.

Attorney General Marie Whelan
Attorney General Marie Whelan

Housing, Planning and Local Government Minister Simon Coveney said he would not allow families to be "ripped off" and would introduce regulations if required.

He said the proposed cap on charges would not be left to waste collectors to agree on a voluntary basis.

"Either I force them to do it through regulation or we look at some other mechanism whereby we can ensure that households get the reassurance that they need that they are not getting ripped off, either by introducing a regulator in terms of setting prices or parameters around how prices are set," he told Cork local radio, adding: "I'd rather not go down the regulation route." His comments were made after a protest was held as he arrived for a meeting at South Dublin County Council to discuss bin charges.

Mr Coveney said he would be meeting with Attorney General Marie Whelan to discuss the legal issues involved, including the introduction of regulations to cap charges, and he will brief the Cabinet this morning, after which an announcement will be made. He said the new system would reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, and he wanted a cap on charges for the next year.

"It's good for the environment, it's good for households because by recycling and reusing their waste they can reduce their charges, it's good for landfill because we are trying to reduce the volumes of unnecessary waste going into landfill because it's expensive. My job is to try to manage that transition in a way that will ensure that households are not going to get ripped off."

Around 20pc of households are already operating on a pay-by-weight system, and there was a need to "get rid" of the "distrust and concern" around charges, he added.

Read more: Pay-by-weight bin charges to be suspended if prices not cut

Fianna Fáil's Barry Cowen said the new plan appeared "reasonable".

"We asked him last week to go meet with the waste companies and come up with a solution that didn't increase charges," he said. "Some companies are not members of the association and if they don't agree then he has to find a way to stop them," he added.

It is not clear what form of regulation can be introduced to force companies to cap charges, or if the proposed system will go ahead as planned.

Separately, the Government intends to introduce the pay-by-weight system in civic amenity sites from next February.

Around 200,000 tonnes of household waste is brought directly to civic amenity sites every year. A spokesman for the minister said the system was expected to be introduced in private and local authority sites.

It will affect one in eight households which do not have a kerbside collection service.

Let us know how much you are being charged for your bin service from July 1. Forward an email from your operator, or a picture of your bill, to feedback@independent.ie.

Irish Independent

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