herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Months of planning, huge money to big name advisors, so why is Dublin City's privatised bin service rubbish?

YOU'D expect after months of planning, the privatisation of Dublin's bin service would have gone smoothly.

After all, you hand over €250,000 to Ernst & Young and you'd expect they'd have an order of battle akin to D-Day. But it's more like Dunkirk.

Sure, you'd expect a few teething problems but not weeks of complaints to Joe Duffy and the Herald.

Now the transfer of the city's bin collection service to a private company has been branded a shambles.

Confusion continues to reign with thousands of customers seemingly abandoned by Dublin city council.

It all started with Greyhound Recycling & Recovery took over the local authority's service on January 16.

Collection days were changed, routes altered, prepaid fees were demanded -- and still bins were left on the street.

The council was accused of failing to properly notify the families of the new regime.

In the end, city chiefs were forced to admit the changeover was not handled well.



Blunder

"There was a lot of confusion caused to customers," city manager John Tierney stated.

But he insisted the service has now settled down and is rapidly improving.

The council has also come under intense pressure to reveal details of the contract it signed with Greyhound.

Mr Tierney said they asked the company to agree to a redacted copy of the contract to be made public.

"They are taking legal advice and have agreed to consider and revert to us as soon as possible," he added.

Up to 1,000 homes in the city area didn't have their waste collected as a result of the fiasco.

Families have been left fuming, having been forced to wait weeks for collection.

Mr Tierney put it down to a "database" blunder. But the city manager said the situation is getting better by the day.

"The tonnage collected by Greyhound in the first week of operations was about 70pc of the normal council weekly tonnage collected," Mr Tierney said.

The vast majority of customers are now becoming aware of the revised schedules, he added.

Focus is now turning on Greyhound.

Run by a former college rugby star and his brother, it's had a baptism of fire this month. The Clondalkincompany is operated by ex-investment banker Brian Buckley and accountant brother Michael.

The brothers spent tens of millions of euro developing their 12-acre site in west Dublin, which sorts hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish.

Brian was captain of the TCD rugby team when he studied for a BESS at the university.

The idea for Greyhound's recycling operation was born when he was working as an investment banker in Australia and was asked to take a look at a number of newspaper groups.

He realised that a major component of newspaper cost was paper pulp, being shipped from the US into Australia.

Using locally recycled paper would obviously be far more cost effective.

The brothers' parents had set up a waste management business when the boys were children so both had a good understanding of the sector.

Brian has previously said: "There were literally tonnes of rubbish simply being dumped into landfill but much of it was worth money."

Now Dubliners could yet be hit with increased bin fees.

Prior to the transfer, the only price guarantee secured by the council for its 140,000 customers was that bin fees would not go up for the first six months of 2012.

Greyhound could apply an increase to the levies to off-set the next increase to the Government's landfill levy which is due to take effect in July.

Independent councillor Cieran Perry rejected accusations that the anti-bin tax campaign led to privatisation. He says it was the initial imposition of the fees that attracted the private industry in the first place.

Meanwhile, the public is landed with the bill, including the €250K paid over to Ernst & Young who picked Greyhound.

comurphy@herald.ie

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