Ultimate cost of domestic bin collection is unclear
In preparation for this column I decided to contact both companies. The Greyhound website told me that phone calls to it were, on average, being answered within 4 minutes and 41 seconds. I contacted the company by email and as of last night had received no response.
A call to the City Bin Co offices in Oranmore was answered quickly and in time I found myself talking with its founder and chief executive, Gene Browne.
He said the reason his company did not want to publish its accounts was that they were of too much use to competitors in what was a business with high asset costs and low profit margins.
He said the use of unlimited companies became fashionable in the sector during the noughties. The Jersey companies that own City Bin Co are in turn owned by an Irish (unlimited) company, Boscolo Holdings. He said the corporate structure does not involve any tax-avoidance advantages.
City Bin entered the Dublin city market in November. Greyhound is now targeting City Bin’s distinctive red bins in a drive to win back customers. It is attaching leaflets advertising its €79 one-year special flat rate offer to City Bin bins (most of whose owners have just switched from Greyhound) encouraging a switch back to Greyhound and a saving of €20.
It is worth noting that these competing flat-rate offers mean the polluter pays (more lifts more cost) principle has been temporarily thrown out the window in Dublin city.
Domestic waste collection is a high-asset-cost business, and you have to run your collections every week irrespective of the number of bins waiting for you. When the sector settles, most towns and cities are likely to end up being serviced by one or two companies. And households will always need someone to take away their rubbish. Rent-seeking is an obvious danger.
Browne said it was because the cost of getting rid of rubbish became so high (ie landfill costs, etc) that the public service model came to be replaced by a business model.
Certainly a contributor to the ending of the public service model was the widespread failure or refusal of so many members of the public to pay bin charges, as well as the associated failure of the local authorities to enforce payment.
We may all yet end up paying a price for those failures.
Anyone for a binman regulator?