Wednesday 20 November 2019

A rubbish policy dumped

AS the election results showed, John Gormley's efforts to thwart the building of an incinerator in his constituency did him no good there.

But they also damaged his national credentials as someone applying a new, more principled kind of politics and even, in the eyes of any reasonable person, his Green credentials as well. It made no sense to try to impose levies on waste going to the incinerator, thereby forcing it to go into landfill sites all over the country, posing a bigger threat to the environment and, in the long run, even to the climate.

The suspicion that this was a solo run by the former minister is strengthened by the speed with which the new minister, Phil Hogan, has been able to get his department to completely reverse this policy. Now the levy will be on landfill, at up to 50c per tonne, making incineration more attractive.

This is surely the right approach, with Dublin having to send all of its rubbish to dumps in seven counties as far away as Galway. There will be complaints about the higher charges but price is the most effective way to influence behaviour.

There may be more controversy over Mr Hogan's plan to franchise bin collection in particular areas, rather than have companies competing to have their truck remove the rubbish. In theory, franchising to the best bidder should work better, but it requires tough regulation and a complete lack of favouritism to be avoid the customer being overcharged.

One would not be optimistic, given past experience, that is how it will be done; not even with a government which promised so fervently to do things differently.

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