Bin charges: new rules to come in over 15 months, says Varadkar

Plans to end flat charges and introduce pay-by-weight system to be challenged in Dáil

The Labour Party has warned that the new system would open the door for ‘price gouging’ by waste companies. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

The Labour Party has warned that the new system would open the door for ‘price gouging’ by waste companies. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

The proposed new regime for bin charges will introduced gradually over a 15-month period, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday.

The pay-by-weight arrangements announced by Minister for Communications and Environment Denis Naughten last week would end flat charges and introduce a pay-by-weight system.

They have sparked controversy due to concerns that the new regime will see sharp increases in waste charges.

Fianna Fáil has tabled a private members’ motion calling for an independent waste regulator to be established. This motion will be debated in the Dáil this afternoon.

Speaking at a press conference with the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau this morning, Mr Varadkar said the Government would proceed with changes to the waste charges system over a phased period of 15 months.

Mr Varadkar said people needed to be incentivised to treat their waste in a more environmentally friendly way.

The Government has not yet agreed to a counter-motion to the Fianna Fáil motion, which will be debated in the Dáil this evening. Contacts are continuing among ministers and senior officials this lunchtime.

The Social Democrats say they will table amendments to Fianna Fáil’s Dáil motion on bin charges to ensure that bin companies will not be permitted to obtain waste licences or permits without publishing their financial accounts in Ireland.

The amendments also call for the introduction of a national waiver scheme for customers who meet specific criteria on income, family size, health needs; and/or age.

Co-leader of the Social Democrats Catherine Murphy TD said: “The planned pay-by-weight scheme amounts to a free-for all for bin companies who will be able to set their own collection rates and ensure their own profitability.

“Yet many of these companies do not see fit to publish details of their financial accounts in Ireland.”

The Labour Party has warned that the Government proposals to change the way householders pay for waste disposal will “lead to thousands of people coming onto the streets” in protest at the new charging regime.

Labour Party spokesman on the environment Sean Sherlock warned the new system would open the door for “price gouging” by waste companies and could lead to widespread protests against the plans.

“Because you can anticipate that there will be price increases,” Mr Sherlock said.

Consumers, he warned, “could go from a flat charge to having 2-30 per cent increases on a weekly basis”.

He said Mr Naughten should pull back from his plans and conduct a “proper examination of what the nature of the market is” before any new system of charging is introduced.

“He is rushing the fences on this one,” he said.

Opposition parties have promised to oppose the new charges with both Sinn Féin and Solidarity saying they will mount a popular campaign against their introduction.

Earlier on Tuesday Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Timmy Dooley said the “changes being proposed by Minister Naughten will cause an increase in costs for many consumers, and this cannot be supported.

“An independent waste 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.

“In addition to the regulator, our motion focuses on the need to deal with illegal fly tipping that has been on the increase for the past number of years.

“We need to ascertain whether or not there is a causal link between increasing waste collection charges and illegal dumping,” he said.