THE political wrangling that surrounds the change in the system of bin charges bears all the hallmarks of another Irish Water fiasco.
The “user and polluter pays” principle inherent in the failed introduction of water metering was drowned amid public protests as successive governments failed to bring clarity to what the new water charges would mean.
The current administration appears to be making the same mistake on bin charges.
A pay-by-weight system which was due to come into place last year was delayed and a price freeze imposed when it emerged that some waste collection companies had increased charges by up to 300% in advance of the change.
That gave credence to the charge by those opposed to any form of waste collection payment that some of the private companies involved could not be trusted and that an effective cartel was operating in Dublin.
Considering what some of the collection companies were up to, one might have imagined that the lessons might have been learned by the Government in how to move forward. Clarity in terms of payment and fairness in the charges should have been paramount.
In fact, Environment Minister Denis Naughten appears to have muddied the waters further. Part of the structure being introduced by him will allow companies to charge based on the number of times the bin was lifted, by weight, through a weight allowance coupled with a higher charge per kilogram produced above this or through a combination of all.
“Allowing for a range of charging options, which most consumers are already familiar with, will encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste while choosing the service-price offering that best suits their circumstances and allows them manage their costs,” he said.
That is not only a convoluted system, but an opaque and unreasonably complex one.
The Government insists that the move away from flat-fee collection charges is designed to increase recyling rate in view of the fact that the amount of waste being sent to landfill has increased in the last two years. It says an “incentivised pricing structure” is needed to improve recycling rates. However, it may, in fact, make matters worse. If, for instance, companies charge for lifting blue bins, that will actually discourage householders from recycling.
Just like the introduction of water charges, neither the Government, the public nor even the operators of the system can accurately forecast how much the service will cost in the future. As our report today reveals, the Irish Examiner contacted a number of collection companies to ask them what system they will adopt under the new framework, and as to how much they will charge. None had replied at the time of going to press.
There is already huge uncertainty surrounding the operation of the new system but one thing seems certain: Many households will be paying considerably more for, esssentially, the same service. The only question is how much.
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