Abolition of flat-rate refuse charges will have little impact in many areas

Majority of households in Cork county, for example, already pay by weight

The majority of the 80,000-plus domestic households in Cork county pay by weight or for each lift of a wheelie-bin by a waste collector

The majority of the 80,000-plus domestic households in Cork county pay by weight or for each lift of a wheelie-bin by a waste collector

 

The abolition of flat-rate charges for refuse across the State will have little impact in many parts of the country because they are already covered by fees that depend on how much waste they produce.

The majority of the 80,000-plus domestic households in Cork county, for example, pay by weight or for each “lift” of a wheelie-bin by a waste collector.

The county’s two biggest waste collectors are Country Clean, which collects from 47,000 homes and businesses, and Wiser, which has 23,159 customers. Both charge for each wheelie bin emptied.

The Killarney-based firm KWD, the third largest firm, has 6,361 customers in the western part of the county and has a pay-by-weight system. Greenstar has 4,563 customers in the county and charges a flat fee.

Between them, the four firms collect from 81,033 households across Cork county. Greenstar’s 4,564 customers – 5.6 per cent of homes in the county – pay a flat fee. A number of smaller firms operate, too.

The legislation will encourage recycling and cut the amount of waste going to landfill or incineration, according to Louis Duffy, director of environment at Cork County Council.

“One collector considered a cap on the weight of waste that could be put out under their flat-rate charge and proposed to impose a charge for all weight above the cap.

“Others might levy a standing charge and a nominal or substantial charge per lift or kg after that. It is a matter of balance. With a flat rate charge there is no incentive to reduce,” he said.

Recycling

However, a charge for residual waste risks contaminating recyclable materials if a waste collector is not charging for recycling, because customers may be tempted to dispose of such waste in their recycling bin, he said.

In Dublin, one waste company has begun to photograph green bin waste as it is collected in a bid to stop contamination because it dramatically increases the costs.

In tandem with the abolition of flat-rate charges, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten is increasing the numbers of districts that will have collections for organic compostable wastes.

Previously, companies were obliged to collect so-called “brown bin” waste from districts with more than 1,500 people, but this number is now to be cut to 500, or more.

This is likely to lead to extra costs for waste firms who already agreed a 12-month price freeze in 2016 when flat-fee charges were originally supposed to end, though this was deferred by the Government,

Many parts of Cork county, particularly in towns, are serviced by more than one firm, so price rises by one contractor will provoke competition from another, Mr Duffy said.

However, many rural districts are served only by one firm, while others may not be not served at all – but this could change if all homes are obliged to have licensed waste disposal.

“If this happens and every house has to avail of waste collection, waste collectors will have to service routes that are not viable under their current charging regimes and that may lead to price increases,” he said.

Waste centres

Cork County Council has 11 civic amenity sites, where people can dump waste and pay fees for different materials. These centres will not be affected by any of changes required by these regulations, he said.

Nationally, an Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA) survey indicates that almost 60 per cent of the one million households served by its members already pay by weight or by lift.

The IWMA, which represents 25 waste collectors serving 875,000 homes , carried out the survey in December, including non-IWMA members, City Bin and Greyhound who collect from more than 100,000 homes.

Although the IWMA did not have figures for either pay by weight or pay by lift charges, the umbrella body estimated that the annual average fee is approximately €300.

More than 923,000 homes – or 93 per cent of customers – are served by more than one firm, a level of competition which was described as “healthy and beneficial”, according to one industry source.