Waste recycling to be free due to tech shortfall

Local authorities will not be able to weigh recyclables.

Householders will still be able to dispose of their recycling waste free of charge at local authority sites when the new pay- by-weight charges come into effect on July 1 because councils do not have the technology to weigh it.

Private waste collectors are equipped to start charging by the kilo, although the ministerial order on paying for recyclables still has not been signed off. However, local authorities will not be able to get weighing equipment installed by the deadline and it could take at least six months for them to do so.

Fears have been expressed that long queues will form at scores of civic amenity sites around the country as householders take the opportunity to get rid of recyclable waste for nothing.

All council-operated ‘bring sites’, which normally cater for bottles and cans, are currently free of charge. Some local authorities charge nothing for recycling these and many other items at larger civic amenity sites.

Other councils impose nominal entry charges for civic amenity sites, primarily to pay for the cost of residual waste which ends up buried in landfill.

Sharon Corcoran, who sits on a national working group trying to address the anomaly, said all local authorities are in the same position. Ms Corcoran, who is also head of Cork County Council’s environment directorate, said a pilot scheme for civic amenity sites pay-by-weight operations is underway at sites at Cashel and Clonmel, Co Tipperary to examine what types of pay-by-weight systems may be introduced.

She said it would take three months before proper data on their operation is analysed.

Ms Corcoran said that “realistically, it could take six months”, before a preferred system is installed nationwide,” and it’s possible that extra personnel will have to be drafted into the civic amenity sites to cope with the increase in workload. She said in the case of her own county it is likely it will cost the council around €400,000 to install computerised weighing equipment into its 11 civic amenity sites.

Cork County Council charges a €3 entry fee per visit to its civic amenity sites, but once inside a householder can dispose of a car-load of recycleable waste for nothing. The entry fee is primarily used to pay for the burial of residual waste in landfill sites and subsidise the day-to-day running of the 11 civic amenity sites.

Some of Ms Corcoran’s own county councillors have called for postponement of the charges, fearing mayhem at civic amenity sites which have had their opening hours and staff cut back.

Other councillors sought its abolition altogether, maintaining that it would lead to increased littering and burning of plastics in back gardens, with consequent environmental and heath risks.

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