Bid to halt ‘pay by weight’ recycling in County Cork

Cork county councillors have urged their officials and the Deparment of the Environment to either postpone or scrap pay-by-weight charges for recyclable material which are to be introduced on July 1, because it will lead to “mayhem” and “illegal dumping”.

At a meeting of the council’s western division in Clonakilty, Councillor Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said the directive, which comes from the EU, was basically pointless because it would lead to mass littering in the countryside.

It has emerged that the local authority cannot put proper computerised weighing scales into its 11 civic amenity centres in time to cope with the supposed deadline date, which has yet to be signed off on by a ministerial directive.

Councillor Paul Hayes (SF) described the new system as “an absolutely retrograde step”, predicting it would lead to an increase in “backyard burning” and littering. Councillor Alan Coleman (Ind) agreed and said he did not see the logic of the new charges.

“Recycling is now part of our culture,” said Mr O’Sullivan, “charging for it will set us back years and create more littering”.

Ted O’Leary, a senior official in the council’s environment directorate, told councillors that people already basically pay for the disposal of recyclable material as private waste contractors charge a lump sum to remove all household waste.

His boss, Sharon Corcoran, later said it could be at least six months before the council installed weighing equipment and all other local authorities are in the same position.

Ms Corcoran, who also sits on a national working group trying to address the situation, said a pilot scheme for civic amenity site pay-by-weight operations is underway at sites at Cashel and Clonmel, Co Tipperary to examine what types of pay-by-weight systems are introduced.

It is estimated it will cost Cork County Council in the region of €400,000 to put weighing equipment in its 11 centres.

Councillor Paul Hayes said there were other problems because some of the civic amenity sites have had their opening hours reduced in recent months.

“We’ll need more personnel on sites to help with the weighing process, have we costed this?” he said.

Mr O’Leary said costings had been made, but he didn’t have them with him.

Some of the personnel who had been working at civic amenity sites have been redeployed to a special team which is picking up litter in blackspot areas throughout the county.

The anti-litter unit, as they are known, has picked up more than 60 tonnes of dumped rubbish in the first three months of this year.

Councillors are concerned that they will be far busier if the pay-by-weight charges are introduced on July 1.

Mr O’Sullivan is particularly fearful of this. However he added that responsible householders will dispose of their waste at civic amenity sites rather than pay private operators’ charges and this will create “queues of cars”.

“If I had the option of just paying the €3 [site entry fee] , I’d know what option I’d take. There will be queues of cars and we won’t have staff in position to deal with this. It could have quite serious implications,” he said.

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