Wednesday 21 February 2018

U-turn on green bin levy may not leave people out of pocket

Catherine Fulvio at a photocall to announce pay by weight waste Photo: Jason Clarke
Catherine Fulvio at a photocall to announce pay by weight waste Photo: Jason Clarke
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The decision to row back on the green bin levy could be the first of many U-turns to be undertaken by this Government. In the absence of a majority, it will face pressure to backtrack on unpopular decisions and policies, and opposition from the Green Party, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and the Anti-Austerity Alliance may have prompted this decision.

On the face it of, dropping the minimum charge of 2 cent per kilo of green bin waste may appear to be a victory for the consumer and go some way towards achieving higher recycling rates. But it's worth noting that only minimum charges to be applied have been set out.

From July 1, pay by weight kicks in and waste collectors must charge a minimum of 11 cent per kilo to dispose of black bin landfill waste, and 6 cent for organics. There is no minimum for green.

And 'minimum' is important here. There is no 'maximum'. Collectors are allowed to charge as much as they believe the market can bear. Some may impose a charge for collecting green bin waste, or they could increase the cost of disposing of the black or brown bin to make up any drop in revenue.

We are pretty good at recycling. Around 34pc of household waste is recycled, compared to an EU average of 28pc, and we produce 344kg of waste per year, 21pc less than our neighbours.

But we are rubbish at composting - 6pc of organic waste, which can be used to produce gas to power our homes, is properly disposed of, compared with the EU's 15pc.

It's worth noting that a tonne of mixed paper waste currently sells for export for between €72 and €87, according to Plastic bottles go for €65 to €440 per tonne.

That means there is an incentive for collectors to get their customers to do the right thing and recycle more. Instead of paying the cost of disposing of it in landfill, they can make money from it.

The system is based on the 'polluter pays' principle - the more you produce, the more you pay.

While the department says more than 85pc of households will pay less than their current charge under the new regime, only time will tell.

How bin charges will work from July 1

- Currently, households can pay to dispose of their waste using a number of methods, including an annual flat fee, pay by collection or pay by weight.

- From July 1, charges will be based on the amount of black, green or brown waste produced, which is in line with the 'polluter pays' principle.

- Trucks will weigh each bin before the waste is removed. The cost of the service will vary, and will depend on the number of people in the home, the amount of waste produced, and the geographical area being served.

- There are some exceptions. For example, not all properties, including apartments or terraced houses, are suitable for wheelie bins. These properties will continue to put their waste in bags, and guidelines will be issued to local authorities.

Irish Independent

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