With the new pay-by-weight charges coming into force on July 1, 2016, we are seeing a lot of profiteering taking place. Contracts already in place with consumers are being terminated and they are being offered new contracts with much higher overall charges in the majority of cases. But is this fair?
The new regime was supposed to cut costs for recycling consumers and encourage waste reduction. The standing charges, lift fees, service fees and admin charges are unlinked to the volume and weight of waste collected, whether brown or black bins are involved. The minimum rates per kg outlined in the legislation are being inflated with the 11c rate (min specified) now transforming to a range of 28-39c/kg depending on the waste collecting Company involved.
The legislation had a fatal flaw – it did not set maximum rates. This has opened up a profiteering scenario, that the private operators have now, not surprisingly, seized. The result – typical annual bills for consumers will jump by over 90 % or more. Once actual estimate we have seen is a low volume household bill going from €113 p.a. to €274 p.a with a Dublin waste collector.
Initially the old Department of the Environment estimated that the legislation would lead to a 25pc reduction in waste going to landfill sites and lower consumer bills to those who recycle more and waste less. But they got their numbers seriously wrong and as we write government ministers are sticking to this script without realising the actual scenario now in play as waste operators take advantage of the opportunity to bolster their incomes and profits.
There will be as much outrage on this issue once the new contracts and first bills arrive as we had with water charges. Expect to see some public anger on display.
The EU Waste Framework Directive is the source of this legislation originally, which attempts to reduce waste to landfill volumes. At the moment, people pay waste collection by a variety of means, including flat fees, service fees, pay-per-collection and pay-by-weight.
The pay by weight applied only to non-recyclable waste. Recyclable waste was free to collect. (Green/Brown bin). Some collectors just charged a flat rate regardless of weight collected. This will now change to new rates for non-recyclable waste and recyclable waste. Waste companies will no longer be allowed to charge an annual flat rate to customers.
pay-by-weight typical bin weights in EU
How does the new regime work?
Collection systems will remain as before. Flat rates will disappear and pay by weight will apply to all waste collected. The various fees for admin, pickup, service and standing will remain (and probably increase ).
How much will we pay?
In reality there is no max price and bills will depend on the volume of waste generated. People will pay for volume/weight, bin collection and service fees for providers.
PAY-BY-WEIGHT charges. How much will you pay?
The full charges are only now being announced by waste contractors and they vary a lot, but the minimum charges set by the Department will work out as follows:
- Residual household waste (black or grey bin): 11 cent per kg
- Food waste (brown bin):6 cent per kg
However, the reality being proposed by waste collectors, as per their new contracts is : black bin – 39c, brown bin – 26c (typical actual charges)
The government initially planned an additional ( rather idiotic) charge for recycling or ‘green’ bin waste. However, following a campaign that showed the negative impact on recycling volumes, they changed their minds and that charge will not be applied when the new collection system comes into effect on 1st July. But, be warned that it might appear in the future.
Will we be better off?
The Department of the Environment said that the majority (87pc) of households will save money with a pay-by-weight system in place, as those with four people or less will pay lower charges. They estimated that households with five people (8.8pc of the total) would pay approximately the same under pay-by-weight charges as they would under a flat fee or a pay-by-collection system. But only those with six or more persons (4.5pc of the total, or more than 74,000 people) are likely to see an increase in their costs.
They got their figures very wrong and did not anticipate the big price hikes, well above the minimum limits outlined.
Based on our evidence very, very few households will be better off. The majority will see large price hikes as the early evidence now shows.
The new pricing structure will NOT incentivize people to re-cycle more, avoid waste entirely or simply cut their waste burden. The costs are too biased towards the service fees and overhead charges that are not volume related. This must be changed.
There must be a way for very low volume producers to combine and share bins, or simply to choose a low cost DIY option using local council facilities or allotment facilities.
10 ways to keep your costs down.
These actions will help to trim your bills.
- Cancel your contract and deal with your own waste by composting, wormery and deliver black bags and recycling items to the local Council recycling Site. (this may become impossible in the future as legislation will require everyone to be part of a collection system). But while enforcement is not evident take the benefit.
- Shop around for a better waste collector (it may not be possible everywhere but ask around and see who else can offer a service). Get the best price possible for your expected waste volumes.
- See if the Waste Collector has different price plans based on your volume. Pick the best option over a year.
- Apply portion control to your food servings. We waste over 30% of the food we buy. Only buy what you need, avoid it going out of date and cook only what you need and then, finish your plate.
- Reduce your Food Waste volumes by drying the food waste before packing it in the brown bin.
- Dry your garden waste (if not composting it) before putting in a bin.
- Reduce Black bin waste by changing your consumer purchases to avoid products that do not use recyclable materials for packaging.
- Invest in Compost bins (have at least 2). This handles garden waste e.g. grass, raw food (fruit & veg) scraps.
- Invest in a Food Waste Cone (food digester). This will naturally digest your food waste in the garden (meat, fishbones included) and pet waste. You only need to empty the system every 1-2 years.
- Buy a wormery. It’s a great way to deal with food scraps and get great nutrients for your garden.
Opportunity to adopt a ZERO Waste lifestyle.
This is a good opportunity to adopt a ZERO WASTE lifestyle and avoid being a victim of the profiteering waste industry and the ill-conceived legislation that must be amended urgently to genuinely incentivize the ‘zerowasters’ and those very low waste producers.