Families facing higher fees to dispose of their rubbish
Families will pay more to dispose of their household waste after the Government announced a ban on flat-fee charges.
Environment Minister Denis Naughten has resurrected plans to penalise households which refuse to recycle, and those who insist on sending all their rubbish to landfill will pay more.
But he admitted charges would also rise across the board after a voluntary 12-month price freeze ends this month. He said the industry had advised that there would be an overall increase, but insisted it would not be "significant".
"There is likely to be some increase in relation to the cost of collecting refuse," he said. "For example, labour costs have gone up, but we don't expect a significant increase."
Last year, the Government became involved in a furious row over plans to introduce a pay-by-weight collection system, where a minimum charge to dispose of black bin waste destined for landfill and green bin recycling waste would be imposed.
Under a new system which comes into force on July 1, flat rate fees will be banned, meaning households which only use the black bin to dispose of waste will pay higher charges. There will be no minimum charge per kilogram of waste disposed, with operators free to set prices.
Under the new arrangement, waste collectors can offer a range of pricing options to customers. These can include combinations of a standing charge, a fee every time the bin is lifted, a charge per kilogram of waste, or a pricing structure based on the amount of waste produced with an excess charge for amounts above a certain weight limit.
Mr Naughten said he expected collectors to put customers onto tariffs which reflected their recycling habits, and which would lead to lower costs.
"It allows for the operators to introduce a range of charging schemes, but the fundamental principle is to reduce and segregate. Those who do, will pay less. By getting rid of the flat rate fee, you incentivise people to reduce," he said.
But he said the State did not have any direct role in pricing, and could not force operators to charge specific amounts for collection. To reduce bills, brown bills will be provided to households in every town with 500 or more people, which allows for food waste to be recycled. For adults with incontinence problems, the State will provide €75 per person to help reduce waste disposal costs. Companies will apply for this grant on behalf of customers, which will be offset against bills.
An education campaign is also proposed, to help inform the public on how to reduce their bills. The Government is also exploring how to provide composting facilities to isolated rural communities with low populations, and for those living in apartment blocks.
It is expected that most households will move across to the new system within 15 months. From July 1, new customers will not be given the option of a flat-fee charge. Those currently benefiting from this payment system will see it end when they renew their contract.
The Green Party said that consumers would suffer if the new system wasn't properly regulated, and that recycling had to remain free.
Sinn Féin warned low-income households were at risk over new Government waste policy, as well as those with disabled people or children who may produce more waste. "The minister is only setting out certain bands for charging; he has no power to set prices because this industry has been privatised," said Brian Stanley TD.