Tuesday 22 October 2019

How bin lorry cameras are on hunt for thousands of homeowners who break rubbish rules

A worker takes a break at a Chinese recycling centre in Jiaxing
A worker takes a break at a Chinese recycling centre in Jiaxing
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Cameras mounted on bin lorries are looking out for thousands of homeowners who break rubbish rules.

Now hundreds of households have been forced to pay higher charges because they routinely dispose of nappies and other black bin waste in their recycling bin.

Panda this week announced a levy on recycling waste for its 250,000 customers - and the announcement was followed swiftly by The City Bin Company which will charge a flat €22.80 annual fee.

Panda is now using high-speed cameras to monitor whether households are using the green bin for waste which should be subject to a higher charge.

Managing director of the company's recycling division Des Crinion said almost 12,000 customers in north Dublin were being monitored to ensure they did not contaminate recycling bins, which makes the waste difficult to recycle. Some 645 had been forced to pay a charge of €9.35 per lift, with 115 subject to repeated fines.

"In certain areas, we have up to 40pc contamination in the bin," he said. "The cameras are linked with GPS and the microchip in the bin, so when we see contamination on the camera we can go to the household. Most of the time they don't do it again, but there are certain serial offenders."

The company is beginning to charge 80 cents per recycling bin lift, and 4.5 cents per kilogramme of waste, but said the higher €9.35 fee would continue to be imposed on offenders. Other operators, including Thornton's, Greyhound and AES, can impose a contamination charge, with industry sources suggesting they were likely as companies seek to find new markets to dispose of waste.

This is because China has largely closed its doors to imported waste and imposed strict new rules on permitted contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has highlighted this problem.

While Irish households have achieved or are on track to reach recycling and waste reduction targets, new EU targets from 2020 will be more onerous. Currently half of municipal waste generated must be recycled, but that will rise to 65pc by 2030.

The threshold for packaging waste will rise from 55pc to 75pc, meaning an additional 70,000 tonnes a year, while just 10pc of waste can be landfilled by 2030 compared with 35pc today - down from 390,000 tonnes to just over 120,000.

Clearly a huge challenge lies ahead and education is needed. People remain unsure as to what items can be placed in the bins, and unless this problem is tackled more waste companies are likely to take a harder line.

We must also increase the number of facilities here to process waste to the point when it is a raw material for glass plants or paper mills, so a valuable commodity. Panda plans to develop a €10m plant where it will wash and shred plastic film creating a product which can be reused.

On food waste, the EPA says we routinely throw away half of all salads bought and 20pc of bread, with the cost per household running between €400 and €1,000 a year. But it also points to the high financial and environmental cost of buying pre-packaged foods.

But there is a more fundamental change needed. While the Government has proposed a latté levy on disposable beverage cups which cannot be recycled, many believe it doesn't go far enough. We need to ban single-use plastics like cutlery and straws while developing alternatives which can be reprocessed.

And why is meat wrapped in so much plastic packaging? Why is fruit sealed in plastic? If only a banana or orange had a naturally-occurring protective skin...

We must also figure out how online retailers fund the cost of disposing packaging, use less and recycle as much as possible, only landfilling or incinerating waste as a last resort.

That will need buy-in from governments, consumers and industry to tackle the waste mountain and ultimately save us all money.

Irish Independent

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