Waste company Panda introduces green bin charges

China’s recent ban on plastics and paper sparks global increase in recycling prices

From April 19th Panda  will charge 80 cents per lift of recycling bins and 4.5 cents per kg of waste in green bins. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

From April 19th Panda will charge 80 cents per lift of recycling bins and 4.5 cents per kg of waste in green bins. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / The Irish Times

 

Ireland’s largest waste company Panda has introduced green bin charges for mixed dry recyclables it collects from more than 250,000 homes and commercial businesses, mainly in the Dublin area.

The company has told its customers the move is due to what is in effect China’s ban on plastics and mixed paper since January.

From April 19th it will charge 80 cents per lift of recycling bins and 4.5 cents per kg of waste in these bins. Panda collects and processes 100,000 tonnes of mix recyclables a year.

Its analysis suggests the annual cost of the green bin collection service would be an average of €21 per customer. One householder who contacted The Irish Times, however, said he was facing a €100 increase in charges, based on two lifts a month of his green bin, including a €25 lift charge.

“Recycling is a global business and for more than a decade China has been the main processor of recyclables, not just from Europe, but also for much of the world. For a variety of reasons, including high levels of contamination, China has recently stopped accepting recycling material from outside its own borders,” the company told customers.

The cost of recycling worldwide has “escalated dramatically as more companies worldwide jostle for access to reduced outlets in the rest of the world”, it added.

“With no buyers for paper, plastic and other materials and increasing processing costs, waste companies in many countries are being forced to re-examine not just their pricing structures but in some countries, their entire model of operation,” Panda said.

Reduced outlets

There has been a €100 per tonne drop in the price of unsorted scrap paper in recent months – so much so that waste companies now have to pay up to €25 per tonne to shift it.

Managing director of Panda Recycling Division Des Crinion said: “With China closed to global companies, the cost of recycling worldwide has escalated dramatically as more companies worldwide jostle for access to reduced outlets in the rest of the world.”

It had absorbed increased costs for as long as possible but could not continue to do so. “We have kept the new charges as low as possible as the culture of recycling among Irish householders must continue to be supported and encouraged,” he said.

Lack of recycling facilities globally is a problem which many governments are now grappling with. Reports from other countries suggest some operators are considering ceasing kerbside collections because they cannot process materials collected, while others are storing materials in large warehouses because they cannot find markets for it. In the UK and Australia recyclables are being sent to landfill or incinerated.

“This is a very serious issue the impact of which is only beginning to be felt and we’ve worked very hard to find markets other than China. Later this year Panda hopes to open Ireland’s first plastic processing plant which will provide a new outlet for materials collected,” Mr Crinion added.

Increased costs

Other waste companies are also likely to pass on increased costs in coming weeks; some already charge for green bin contents.

Last year the Government stopped a move to introduce flat bin charges after controversy over predicted increased costs for consumers and moves to extend charges for contaminated waste in green bins. The vast majority of households are now subject to a pay-by-weight scheme, though some areas continue to have a black bags and tag system in place.

In July 2017, the Department of Environment announced, however, it would not be enforcing a pay-by-weight system. Instead, it would no longer allow flat rate bin charges to be applied.

Waste collection companies were free to use several options or combinations of charging methods such as standing charges, pay per-lift, pay per-kilogramme, pay by weight-bands, and weight allowance charges. Standing charges are still allowed but the bin companies also had to incorporate a charge related to the amount of waste a household produces.