Waste companies’ profits will remain unknown because most registered offshore
Taoiseach defends end of flat-rate bin charges to ‘put environment first’
Mary Lou McDonald, who said the announcement of the ending of flat-rate bin charges would result in families struggling to make ends meet being hit with new price hikes. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Nearly all private waste companies in Ireland are registered offshore so nobody will have any idea of the profits they make from the new bin charges, the Dáil has heard.
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith made the claim as she accused the Government of giving companies “carte blanche to raise waste collection charges”.
And Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the announcement by Minister for Environment Denis Naughten of the ending of flat-rate bin charges would result in families struggling to make ends meet being hit with new price hikes.
She also believed illegal dumping would rise across the State impacting on small businesses and the farming community and said the changes were being rushed through.
Ms McDonald questioned what the Government would do to protect low-income and large families who were fearful of yet another bill.
But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said people should not be panicked or fearful and he was sure that if people were afraid “Sinn Féin will not try to exploit that panic and fear”.
Mr Varadkar insisted that nothing has been rushed through and there should be no surprises as this issue had been coming for the past 12 months.
The Taoiseach said 50 per cent of households already paid by weight. He acknowledged that “some people will face a rise in bills” and this was often where private operators were providing a service below cost which was unsustainable.
“This measure makes sense for all the obvious environmental reasons” and “it is increasingly important that we put the environment first when it comes to these issues”.
He said the State was running out of landfill capacity even though rubbish going to landfill was still increasing. Mr Varadkar pointed out that the Minister had to invoke emergency measures last year because of the problems with landfill.
They had to reduce waste and encourage recycling, composting and reuse. “The best way to do this is not to have a system of flat rates where you pay the same amount regardless of how much you throw away.”
The Taoiseach stressed that the flat-rate charging system would be phased out “as customers’ contracts expire or when new contracts are entered into”.
Fianna Fáil Dublin Mid-West TD John Curran said the problem was that “the Government has now distanced itself by stating that the industry will charge as it sees fit”.
He warned that “the Government must take an active role to ensure that any future price increases are manageable”.
Mr Varadkar said 67 firms are operating in this market and it is very competitive.
He said the Government is taking a number of measures including a €75 grant to people who have a long-term illness that necessitates them producing additional waste, particularly incontinence pads.
The Taoiseach added that there will be a public information campaign on how to reduce waste collection charges and “all waste collectors will be required to phase in the brown bin in all communities with a population of more than 500 people”.