Tuesday 20 August 2019

Weighing up the cost of rubbish

Rubbish bin.
Rubbish bin.

By Amy Lewis & David Looby

BIN charges could be set to rise by up to €100 a year for County Wexford residents amid plans to make households pay for their rubbish by weight, including for compost.

The increases will accompany new rules next year which will ban flat-fees to incentivise recycling.

Currently the cost of having your rubbish bins collected amounts to around €300 per year here in County Wexford.

The changes are being introduced by the Environment Minister Alan Kelly who says he wants to radically shake up the industry. Costs currently vary greatly throughout the country depending on private waste collection operators. Galway has the cheapest average bills at €204 while Donegal has the highest at an average of €346.

A Department of the Environment analysis has shown only 4.5 per cent of homes will pay more, with 87 per cent of households to pay less. The remainder of customers would be unaffected. However, waste operators have warned that the cost of installing weighing technology will have to be passed on to customers.

Director of Services for the Environment with Wexford County Council John Carley said the pay by weight system is part of the current government policy to manage waste and turn it into a resource.

'The aim is to encourage recycling. Waste collectors will have to implement a number of measures including: weighing technology on the trucks, putting a customer service protocol in place so that customers will know exactly what is expected of them. They also must be able to tell each customer what the weight of their bin is (this information is already available for customers of some companies e.g. AES).'

Mr Carley said Wexford County Council officials are already carrying out inspections of the companies at the moment to ensure that they are implementing these measures.

'The advantage of preparing for these changes 12 months in advance is that we have time to get things up and running. Companies have the time to implement the measures. So far, everyone that we have inspected has been fully compliant. This shows us that the waste collectors are taking this seriously.'

Regarding whether recycling and compost bins will also be weighed in a similar fashion, he said; 'That remains to be seen. We are talking about the possibility of each bin being weighed but it hasn't been decided yet.'

Mr Carley said bills will be higher for certain categories of people.

'Larger families will obviously pay more than smaller families but that is because they produce more waste. It is a rational policy that may have unintended consequences but it is still rational. There is no doubt that this has worked elsewhere in Europe.'

On the issue of pricing, he said: 'Some providers will be cheaper and some will be dearer. Market forces will decide that.'

Shane Linehan, AES Area Operations Manager, said pricing has yet to be decided.

'We haven't sat down to discuss this yet. It probably will be decided in March or April, at the end of our financial year.'

He said all 70 AES trucks are already set up with the required technology and have been for seven years.

'Last summer we recalibrated them. We are already weighing every bin that we lift. There are three main suppliers and systems. We use MOBA and MCS technology on our trucks. At present, all of our customers can go online and check what their bins weigh.'

Mr Linehan said charges for recycling and compost will be cheaper, adding that he believes the new pay by weight measures will encourage his customers to recycle.

'I'd like to think so. We took over from the council three years ago and they had already done a good job of encouraging people in Wexford to recycle. You can tell people will make an effort.'

The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that the State should introduce taxes on certain types of waste to encourage 'good' behaviour and increase recycling rates. A deposit scheme for cans and bottles, a requirement that pharmacists take back old medicines, and a ban on certain types of packaging, should all be considered to reduce the amount of waste being generated. And there is also a requirement to invest in new waste facilities, the EPA said, including a third incinerator to serve the south of Ireland, and several composting facilities.

A levy on the export of certain waste streams should also be introduced to help drive investment in new infrastructure.

Wexford People

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