Local authorities have warned of a surge in fly-tipping and illegal dumping following the introduction of controversial pay-by-weight bin charges next month.
Senior officials said it is inevitable incidents of illegal dumping will increase when the new charging system, where average households could face bin charges of up to €500 — an 80% hike in some cases — kicks in on July 1.
In Cork City, council officials are regularly monitoring up to 100 dumping hotspots across the city.
The council’s dedicated fly-tipping unit collects an average of 90 tonnes of illegally dumped material every month, senior engineer Eamonn Walsh said.
Director of services in the council’s environment directorate, Jim O’Donovan said fly-tipping has always been a problem. But he said it was less of an issue when the council was responsible for waste collection and had a generous waiver scheme in place.
Almost half the city’s 25,000 domestic waste customers availed of either a full or partial waiver, a system which cost the city just over €4m to provide.
The city sold its loss-making domestic waste collection service to Country Clean in 2011 with a condition the waiver scheme be continued until April 2013.
Mr O’Donovan said there was a slight increase in illegal dumping after the service was transferred to the private operator.
“When the waiver system was discontinued, there was some increase in fly-tipping,” he said.
“The problem of illegal dumping was less when city was operating the waste service and the waiver was in place.”
Mr Walsh says the council investigates all cases of illegal dumping but he said the number of successful court cases is not as high as they would like.
In Cork county, its dedicated fly-tipping unit collected more than 60 tonnes of waste in the first four months of this year alone.
“That was across 138 working days,” the council’s director of environment services, Sharon Corcoran, said.
“They responded to 577 complaints in that period. That is in the present climate when waste is not charged per kilogramme, so you can draw your own conclusions about what effect the changes will have.
“We will have to wait and see what impact it has, but we will be vigilant. At least initially, we expect waste (illegal dumping) levels to increase.”
While some waste management companies have published details of their new pay-by-weight prices, others, including Country Clean, one of the largest operators in Cork, have yet to finalise their charges despite the fact the new system comes into effect in just over two weeks.
It is also understood some waste management companies have been discussing the need for some form of waiver for households on low income, or for those with specific medical needs.
Several companies have flagged this issue with their representative body, the Irish Waste Management Association, but no decisions have been finalised. It is understood this will be among the key issues on the table for discussion when the industry meets minister for local government, Simon Coveney, next week.
Mr Coveney said the Government will deal with waste management companies found to be abusing the new pricing system and hiking prices.
“We will be watching to see whether companies are using the change to increase charges,” he said.
“And if we see companies abusing that, we won’t be slow to act.
“Clearly, we don’t want to encourage a system that treats people unfairly.”
The minister also said the industry will have to consider specific cases, but he refused to be drawn yesterday on whether that means he wants to see the introduction of some form of waiver scheme.
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