herald

Monday 5 December 2016

New laws will freeze cost of bin collection until July next year

Refuse collectors will provide cost comparisons to customers
Refuse collectors will provide cost comparisons to customers

The Government will introduce legislation to cap bin charges if companies increase household bills over the next year.

A controversial pay-by-weight system will not be introduced for at least 12 months to allow households to "get used" to the new charges, and prices will be frozen at current rates until at least July next year.

The move comes after Local Government Minister Simon Coveney accused some operators of using the "confusion" over the introduction of the system to hike charges and make up for financial losses.

Concerns

He said the "stick" of regulation would be used if firms refused to abide by the price freeze designed to allay concerns about rising household bills.

Mr Coveney said that switching to a system where customers were charged on the basis of how much black, brown and green bin waste was produced should not have represented an opportunity for some firms to increase what they charge.

"It's probably fair to say there's some companies that did look at the confusion and transition period as a way of increasing the net charge, perhaps to make up for the fact that some of their customer base were essentially getting a service at below cost," he said.

"To be honest, that is not my problem. I made it very clear that the Government is not going to facilitate companies which, in some cases in an effort to get market share, had very low charges.

"This policy is not an opportunity for any company to take advantage of a change-over process to hike bills, and that is part of what caused so much annoyance."

Under the deal struck between the State and the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), which represents the major companies, prices will be frozen at current rates for the next year.

A public information campaign will be rolled-out over the next six months, and from next January customers will be given the option of moving to the new pay-by-weight system.

Under that regime, customers were due to pay a minimum charge of six cent per kilo of brown/organic waste disposed, and 11 cent for black bin waste destined for landfill. This was designed to ensure the costs of disposal were met, and effectively banned below-cost selling.

While there was no minimum charge for green bin waste to be recycled, some operators took the opportunity to hike or introduce a standing charge, which meant some household bills rocketed.

The IWMA said no householder disposing of the same quantities of waste would face additional charges.

"During this transition period, companies will provide a cost comparison to their customers that will show the amount of waste they are disposing of, their current costs and the equivalent pay-by-weight charges," it said.

"Providing this cost comparison will help householders better understand how charges are calculated. They will be able to see how recycling more can reduce their annual charges."

Debacle

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the change-over was "a debacle", while Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny of giving "rubbish answers" to questions about people who were suffering due to increased charges for services.

Mr Coveney warned that the waste market was competitive, but "it doesn't have to remain the case".

Citing the example of other regulated utilities, he said there was a case to be made that refuse collection was a utility like any other, and could be subject to a price cap under regulation.

Responsibility for waste management will now transfer to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

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