Saturday 22 July 2017

How bin charges are set to rise by at least €30 - and it's only the beginning

Brid Smith Photo: Tom Burke
Brid Smith Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Paul Melia

Bin charges are set to rise by at least €30 a year for the average family, but that's just the beginning under the new regime.

Half of all families are expected to be hit with the initial rise, with warnings of more price hikes to come.

Meanwhile, anti-water- charge campaigners warned they will now turn their attention to bins, in a move that is likely to see a wave of protests across the country.

Groups who led the successful movement that forced a government U-turn on water bills are preparing to launch a similar crusade against changes to how householders pay for rubbish collection.

Under the new pricing regime coming into force in September, experts suggest that customers who currently pay a flat-rate fee, around half of all households, can expect to be hit.

Initial increases were likely to be in "single-digit percentages", one source said. But the end of below-cost bin collections means that rising fuel and labour costs are also set to drive up prices in the coming years.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith, who went to jail for her opposition to bin charges in 2003, said Fine Gael was "terrified" of the backlash coming its way. Sinn Féin is beginning a series of nationwide protests this weekend aimed at stalling Environment Minister Denis Naughten's pay-by-use regime, which is effectively a ban on flat-fee bin charges.

"We are calling on all those opposed to the new waste charge increases to come out and stand with struggling families this weekend," housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said.

Government sources admit they are concerned about the potential for protests in the wake of the Jobstown trial which saw TD Paul Murphy and six others cleared.

Ms Smith said the Government had given private waste collectors "a huge amount of leeway over the years" and allowed rubbish to become a "lucrative business".

"They are now campaigning to be let do what they want. That's what the announcement amounted to," Ms Smith said, adding the minister's message about households needing to recycle more was "a ruse" as Ireland already had a good record.

People Before Profit would campaign to bring waste collection back under the control of local authorities, she said.

But Mr Naughten told the Irish Independent the new regime "is most certainly not about imposing financial hardship on families".

He added: "As minister and a public representative, it would be inexcusable for me to stand by, do nothing and allow a situation to develop where household bins will be left on our streets uncollected because there is nowhere to bring the waste to. This is where the country is headed if I don't act now."

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's Timmy Dooley said his party needed reassurance that prices wouldn't rise in an unfair manner. It wants a regulator for the waste industry to be appointed.

The Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), which represents the major collectors, is refusing to comment on the new charging regime, saying it has not been provided with details.

Some of the biggest operators including Panda, Greyhound and City Bin have indicated they don't expect prices to rise for customers who are already on pay-by-weight systems. But half of all households nationally pay an annual fee, regardless of how much waste they produce, meaning they face hikes.

Plans for a regulator to set maximum prices could also backfire, with more price hikes down the line, one source said. "In regulated industries, prices don't come down. If you have the cost of a tonne of recyclates falling from €150 to €75, and labour costs are up 10pc, the regulator would have to say yes [to price increases]."

But the source added: "I would be amazed if anyone increases prices beyond single-digit percentages, because they'll lose customers. There will be winners and losers [under the new regime]."

Irish Independent

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