Lack of competition widespread in waste collection sector

It is rare in most places for more than two companies to be in direct competition

31 of the 53 waste operators in the State collect only in their home county. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

31 of the 53 waste operators in the State collect only in their home county. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA

 

The majority of counties have between three and four domestic bin collection companies operating in their areas, although it is rare in most places for more than two to be directly in competition.

On Monday, the Minister for the Environment Denis Naughten has said competition between waste collectors will keep bin charges from increasing dramatically.

The National Waste Collection Permit Office has issued 67 waste collection licences, though only 53 firms provide domestic wheelie bin collection services. The rest have licences for skip hire or hazardous waste disposal.

Six firms dominate the industry – AES, City Bin, Oxigen, Thorntons, Greenstar and Panda – although more than 40 smaller businesses run local operations in one county alone.

In August 2016 Panda was given conditional permission to take over rival firm Greenstar by the Consumer and Competition Protection Commission, which relaxed competition pressures in some counties, particularly in Dublin.

Seven bin collection companies operate in Dublin. However, many districts are serviced by either two or three companies, as each company’s licence covers only certain parts of the capital.

Thorntons focus on south Dublin and southwestern parts of the county, and City Bin targets the city centre and surrounding suburbs. Greenstar focuses on Fingal and south Dublin and Dún Laoghaire.

Family affairs

In other cities outside the capital and in rural areas, there is less competition between companies. Apart from the largest six, most waste collection providers are small, family-run businesses.

Tipperary has six bin collection firms; Donegal has five; Wexford has three firms operating throughout the entire county, while Clare has only one, according to the National Waste Collection Permit records.

The State’s waste collection permit allows companies to collect waste in several different counties to encourage competition. However, 31 of the 53 waste operators collect only in their home county.

Complaining that there is not enough competition, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman for the environment, Timmy Dooley, said a national regulator would stop firms hiking prices, once pay-by-weight rules become mandatory across the State.

“[A] regulator would have a role in setting prices for waste collection, and ensuring that waste collection companies compete in an open market and that consumers are protected from any form of price gouging,” Mr Dooley said.