Sinead Ryan: What did you think was going to happen with rubbish idea, Minister?
The devil, as they say, is in the detail. In making his bells and whistles announcement last month, gleefully binning bin charges for household recyclers, Environment Minister Simon Coveney may well have thought he was pulling a fast one.
Rewarding families for being green has resulted in extra charges being piled on by bin operators on waste and brown bins to recoup the cost of his surprise.
What did the minister think would happen? These are private companies in business to make a profit.
They don’t take kindly to being told to drop their fees to zero, which is what the minister embarrassed them into doing by abolishing the minimum charge for green bins.
I spoke to a number of bin operators after the press release was giddily issued by the spin-doctors, and all of them were blind-sided by it. Their response? Alright minister, we won’t charge for the green bin, but we’ll sure as hell make up the cost elsewhere.
So now, as the July 1 implementation deadline arrives, customers are finding that their waste collection may well cost them far more than they had been paying up to now.
There is no consistency in the approach. The three main providers – Greyhound, Panda and Thornton – are all over the place with charges. All have introduced a mandatory annual ‘service charge’ – a fee payable whether or not you put out a bin of any hue.
All three are charging way in excess of the minimum fees so cheerfully announced by Mr Coveney, and one is even hefting an additional ‘per lift’ fee on top of the other two charges.
In his opportunistic attempt to get the ‘good news’ out, Coveney has omitted to place any maximum or capped charge on the private operators, meaning that they can pretty much charge what they like.
In parts of the city and county where no competition exists, that means householders will be stuffed for the cost, without any alternative.
With service charges ranging from €86 to €169pa and per kilo charges at 23c, 27c and even up to 35c for the waste and brown bins, plus additional ‘lift’ fees being imposed by Panda, it means families could find themselves forking out a fortune for a service that, let us not forget, used to be covered by central taxation. Just like water, in fact.
Given that the per kilo ‘minimum’ charges, announced with such glee are just 6c for ‘brown’ bins and 11c for ‘waste’, it shows to what extent the operators have utterly ignored the directive.
The actual charges bear absolutely no relationship to the ‘minimum’ the minister declared. What’s stopping a bin collector charging 50c or a euro per kilo next year?
I rang my own operator to be told my annual service charge will be an impressively large €118-per-year. Then I have to add a lift charge of either €2.56 or €3.20-per-week. Only then are the ‘pay by weight’ fees added – a bracing 16c per kilo for brown and 27c per kilo for black.
Based on my own usage, I cannot see how I’ll be paying any less than before, and I would consider myself a good recycler and composter. No reward for me, then.
One thing I will certainly be spending a fiver on is a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign for my front door.
Those of a certain age will recall vividly the bin strikes of 1968, 2003 and 2010, not to mention 1986 when the Army had to be deployed to collect piles of rubbish from city streets.
Today’s modern solution may be even worse. Some unscrupulous households may decide that chucking their rubbish on the roadside or over a hedge, is the answer. Fly-tipping is already a massive problem and is undoubtedly set to increase with this new arrangement.
There are no waivers for the elderly or disabled. Dubliners used to tagging bags will now have three big plastic bins imposed on them – not exactly the garden ornament they may have wished for.
Paying by weight is important and paying more for general rubbish than paper is quite right. However, paying over the top is not. How long will it be before we see rubbish bags once again cluttering up our street?