Wednesday 20 February 2019

Bin there, done that: how to lower your refuse charges

The waste collection market is more complex than it should be, writes John Cradden, who shares advice

Picture posed. Thinkstock
Picture posed. Thinkstock

Like almost every other essential utility, it should be straightforward by now to compare prices for household waste collection and switch to providers offering a cheaper service.

However, thanks to a market that has been described by the State's consumer watchdog as 'extremely complex' and not working well for consumers, this is far harder than it should be.

Last September, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) published a study on the domestic waste collection market in which it said that while competition should result in multiple suppliers and consumer choice, this was not happening in reality - even with more than 60 waste collection firms in Ireland - with too much concentration in urban areas.

It also found that the average home now pays €230-€280 a year in waste collection charges, and that just 15pc of those with a choice of collection provider had ever switched.

Earlier in the year, a Government-backed monitor reported that householders also struggle to make meaningful comparisons on waste collection fees because of poor online or phone information from many of the firms in the market.

The Price Monitoring Group found that there was no standard way of presenting prices because of the disparity in pricing models and packages, and that staff struggled sometimes to convey pricing information efficiently and effectively.

The chairman of the group, finance and consumer expert Frank Conway, said that if you live in, for example, a rural part of Kerry, Galway or Limerick where there is only one private provider, you will have no option to switch to another unless you opt for the local council-run service.

But if you are lucky enough to live in an area where there is more than one provider, he recommends tracking your usage of both waste and recycling and then work out your needs based on that usage when comparing providers for value.

"For example, in my area, my existing provider has offered a service that was more suited to a large family. But, because I already recycle and compost, it was not suitable for our needs, so we simply remained with our existing provider on the existing plan as it provided best value for money."

Conway also strongly recommends visiting mywaste.ie, a Government information website on how to reduce your household waste, as the first step to reducing your costs, especially now that flat-rate charges are being phased out in favour of some form of pay-by-weight pricing plan.

How to switch... refuse collectors

STEP 1 Check out what providers operate in your area and find out as much as possible about their pricing plans. It may not be easy to compare prices because of the variety of pricing packages and models. In addition, the information you need may not be available online, so you may need to ring up, text or email instead.

STEP 2 Try and track how much you put in your recycling and brown bins on a week-by-week basis before you decide to switch providers or else change your pricing package with your current provider. You may find that you won't save by switching at all. A good starting point for information is mywaste.ie.

STEP 3 Switching itself is easy to do, and can often be done online or by email, as well as over the phone. You will need your bank or credit card details. Your old provider should be in touch to arrange to pick up their bins, but you might need to remind them.

Potential savings: €42 a year*

Total time: 15 minutes

* Based on a Dublin household producing less than 40kg a month in black bin waste and paying per month

Irish Independent

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