New bin collection fees 'will see prices rocket'
Controversial new charges for waste collection will hit poorest families the hardest, opponents claim.
Fianna Fail has said the proposed new regime should be frozen pending the establishment of an independent waste regulator.
Environment spokesperson Timmy Dooley was commenting after the Environment Minister Denis Naughten's announcement that flat-rate fees for bin collections will be banned.
"There is deep unease and concern right across the country, in both urban and rural communities, that this change will lead to rocketing prices," said Mr Dooley.
"These groups are already struggling financially and this new regime should not add to their financial concerns."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted some households would face higher bin charges but he warned against panicking.
Deputy leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, said the planned ending of flat-rate bin charges "will allow operators to charge whatever they like for what is an essential service".
She deplored the lack of support for families on low incomes in the outline plans revealed by the Government.
Pressure has been mounting on Mr Naughten to row back on plans to ban flat-fee charges to dispose of black bin waste.
The new system is designed to encourage an increase in recycling rates and to allow the State to meet binding EU targets to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.
While the minister admits prices will rise, he insisted any increases will not be "significant".
Under the new system coming into force from Saturday, flat-rate fees will be banned, meaning households which only use the black bin to dispose of waste will pay higher charges.
There will be no minimum charge per kilogram of waste disposed, with operators free to set prices. Waste collectors can offer a range of pricing options to customers.
These can include combinations of a standing charge, a fee every time the bin is lifted, a charge per kilogram of waste or a pricing structure based on the amount of waste produced with an excess charge for amounts above a certain weight limit.
It is expected that the cost to dispose of black bin waste, routinely sent to landfill or for incineration, will be higher than the cost of disposing of compostable waste such as food and garden clippings, and recyclables including paper and drink cans.
However, despite increases in recycling rates over recent years, there is growing concern that households are dumping their rubbish into black bins which is sent to landfill.
Meanwhile, the amount of waste sent to landfills rose by more than 110,000 tonnes last year, a 40pc increase, unpublished figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show. In 2013, the amount disposed of in landfill was 381,000. It fell in each of the next two years but sharply rose in 2016 to 390,000 tonnes, up from 278,000 in 2015.
Separately, figures from the Central Statistics Office showed a rise in the amount collected in the landfill levy.
This amounts to a €75 charge for every tonne of waste disposed and figures show that last year €37m was collected, up from €28m in 2015, a 32pc rise.
The EPA has warned that landfill capacity is at "critically low" levels and that last year additional capacity was authorised to prevent stockpiling of waste or illegal dumping.
Seven landfills accepted waste for disposal last year, down from 25 in 2010. The figure has since reduced to six.
"It would be a retrograde step if the quantity of municipal waste disposed to landfill were to start to increase again," it said in its Ireland's Environment - An Assessment report, adding it hoped the 2015-2016 trend would be "short term".