Thursday 22 August 2019

'Price hikes and Opposition to blame for failure of bin scheme'

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Unscrupulous bin companies that hiked charges and a populist "issue-seeking Opposition" helped scupper plans to introduce pay-by-weight charges, a report commissioned for Environment Minister Denis Naughten says.

Other reasons cited for hindering the introduction of the system included a "severe" lack of communication, a hostile media and "sour public mood".

The charges were due to come into force in July 2016, but were postponed due to public opposition. A new system that banned flat-fee charges, but did not impose a pay-by-weight system, came into force last June.

The report by KHSK Economic Consultants commissioned by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment said the new charges were flagged "well in advance" but did not go ahead for three primary reasons.

The first was the "adverse external environment" which existed, including a "populist issue-seeking Opposition, a hostile media and a sour public mood".

"It is possible to point to a negative, populist political cohort who object to policy innovations without proposing viable alternatives," the 'Review of the Obstacles that Hindered the Planned Introduction of Pay by Weight Charging' report said.

It added that a "negative and cynical" media also failed to set out the benefits of the system, designed to reduce waste and increase recycling rates.

The second reason was the design of the pay-by-weight system, which some operators saw as a way to move customers paying "well below normal levels" for a service to a higher charge, which resulted in the system being portrayed as a means to increase rates, rather than an environmental measure aimed at changing behaviour.

"A small number of operators, particularly in the Dublin area, did indeed target the imminent introduction of pay by weight as an opportunity to raise prices for customers who were previously paying waste charges that were well below the costs of managing the waste. It was these proposed price increases that provided the basis for much of the opposition," it said.

The third reason was lack of an "adequate" national communications programme.

It also said the industry believed a Government figure that 87pc of households would pay less was "wrong" and "very damaging".

The consultants noted that few questioned the policy objectives, but that the public mood went against the proposed system. However, it concluded that the policy retained support among "informed stakeholders", including the industry, as it was seen as the "right thing to do" to reduce the amount of waste being generated.

Irish Independent

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