HAS WATER WASTE METERING ARRIVED?
We give a very qualified welcome to yesterday’s WASTE CHARGES announcement by Minister Naughton of the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (see text in the annex below). It starts the ball rolling on waste reduction initiatives but does not go far enough to ensure recycling, waste avoidance and consumer incentives are accelerated.
600,000 customers in the Dublin will see an impact in the coming months and this will be in the form of higher pricing, unfortunately, as waste collectors avail of the new rules to increase profits. The rest of Ireland will follow suit as waste collectors avail of this opportunity to raise prices to cover their own rising costs. We review the news under three aspects, the good points, the bad and the ugly consequences.
- This announcement gives WASTE OPERATORS four months to roll out brown bins (Food Waste) to thousands of people around the country. Something that was supposed to be done a year ago but is only coming along in a sporadic way. Many areas have no Brown bin service at present. Naughten agrees with us that far too much food and organic waste is ending up in the regular black bins. So to ramp up recycling, all waste collectors will be required to start rolling-out food and organic brown bins to all localities nationwide with a population greater than 500 people ( Currently it is 1,500, but not implemented widely yet)
- Under the new scheme, waste collectors have the flexibility to offer pricing options to their customers which the government hopes will incentivise recycling. These options include the choice of standing charges, per-lift, per-kilo, weight-bands, as well as weight allowance charges. Some of these schemes are already in place, mainly outside Dublin. In a normal market, this will allow the most efficient and cost effective operators to provide the best services for consumers, but this is Ireland and it doesn’t always end up as such.
- Flat fee charges are to be scrapped. This mitigated against a reduction in volumes as no incentive existed for greener-minded consumers. Instead, a pay by weight/volume in effect will be put into operation.
- They do not plan to build any new Landfills, but will focus on reducing the volumes of waste in all aspects.
- He wants to shift direction to a Zero Waste destination. Welcome on board Minister
To combat the inevitable price rises the Minister asks us to ‘shop around’. Hmmm’.
- Price rises are unlimited – no upper price fixed. They will allow the private market to set their own pricing. There may be monopoly pricing or collusion. Think ‘Insurance Industry’ here to imagine how it might unravel.
- No waiver scheme has yet been produced in any detailed way.
- No Waste regulator is outlined- in particular, a pricing regulator for waste management activities (landfill, incinerator gate fees, bin charges etc). The EPA is purely engaged in Environmental policy and enforcement.
- The pay-by-weight scheme, which was due to come into place from 1 January, was delayed last December 2016 amid public outrage on price gouging by collectors. While this announcement says pay-by-weight in not coming, in the actual impact it is. Operators will charge by supplements and penalties for weights/volumes over fixed levels. This is current practice in certain areas, where amounts over 30kg are billed at 30c per kilo. We would prefer is there was not base level to allow very low usage to benefit from the reduced costs.
- Apartment blocks Naughten said work is underway to tackle the waste that is generated by people living in apartment blocks but this should have been done in advance of this announcement and highlights the lack of progress on implementation issues to date.
- The Minister said a new awareness campaign will also be rolled-out to educate people how to segregate their recycling. Remember the ‘Race Against Waste’ and ‘Stop Food Waste‘ campaigns. They were underfunded and limited. Do not repeat this without an adequate budget to educate and win hearts and minds. This takes time, effort and money and needs the NGO sector to be an integral part. (The plan to enlist volunteer ‘Waste Ambassadors’ by the Regional Waste Authorities is not a dependable campaign). Involving NGOs, who have dedicated and dependable supporters would seem a better option as it will give it continuity when the payments cease to the commercial partners subcontracted for the PR campaign.
- The biggest problem facing Waste Collectors at present is contamination (30% of recycling materials volume is contaminated). (Food waste mixed with recyclables, wet cardboard etc). This contamination diverts material that could be recycled to landfill so is easily avoided if we educate our population to prepare the recyclables properly.
- To combat the inevitable price rises the Minister asks us to ‘shop around’. With 67 waste operators in Ireland, he said households should compare prices and what’s on offer. But in many places, there is simply no choice. The Minister needs a rethink here on how to create a competitive market on a national level.
- No new actions are outlined for Glass , Plastic and disposable containers like coffee cups. There is urgent action needed to address these issues similar to the Plastic Bag levy that could have an immediate impact e.g. Refundable Bottle returns, Disposable Coffee Cup tax and a major Pet plastic recycling initiative to name but three. Alas, the imagination of the Government is blinded by Incinerator smoke when we need a clear vision.
- “We are going to provide flexibility for operators to ensure that if people segregate more or produce less waste, they will pay less,” said the minister. We would be cautious of this as it could lead to an outbreak of illegal dumping as economic stress on consumers could force them into fly-tippling (especially of the heavier weight items). It’s already happening.
- Food Waste is a timebomb waiting to explode. This is the heaviest fraction by weight and when collected generally will impose a big cost on consumers.
- There needs to be a focus on education, consumer behaviour and food preparation to reduce the waste in the first instance. This is not a simple task as it involves food growers, distributors, retailers and consumers before anything lands in the brown bin. We also need to encourage Food Waste Recycling, redistribution and treatment in a full Circular Economy approach. Past experience in Ireland has shown that we plan well and create lots of reports but fail miserably on implementation. Failure in this National Food Waste project will result in a very ugly (and smelly) environment if all the pieces do not dovetail.
The entire privatisation of waste management was & still remains a complete mess. It needs to be changed to Local area franchises, one company per area for limited periods, at tendered pricing to Councils or Waste Management regions and managed by a price regulator. It might get ugly putting this in place with vested interests not willing to cede ground but the consumer will be the ultimate winner.
The changes will generate consumer anger and resentment. We think the Minister underestimates the feelings on this issue just as the same inertia applied to water charges.
Firstly, we must understand that these ‘new measures’, are just a remarketed version of the same old existing regulations that were postponed. They will come with increased costs for the end consumer. It will generate anger and resentment. We think the Minister underestimates feeling on this issue just as the same inertia applied to water charges. Water metering was rejected but will Waste Metering suffer the same fate? Will we see Wheelie Bins on the streets, and not the pavements, in October?
IS PAY BY WEIGHT BEING SCRAPED?
Not in reality. The pay by weight previously proposed a scheme, such as it was, is NOT being scrapped. It’s just been built into pricing by weight with thresholds, through PR spinning. There will be no Minimum or maximum pricing and no flat rate.
So…what to expect next
(a) expect bin bills to further rise. It’s a commercial business and collectors need to make a profit. There will be no price war, just rising prices from all collectors.
(b) Also expect fly tipping to increase, as those who cannot afford the costs resort to illegal dumping and transfer the cleanup costs to the local authority.
(c) Maybe those Wheelie bins may move from pavement to street in a protest rally when and if the price rises are significant and widespread in October.
This Minister had the opportunity to find an equitable solution and take new initiatives to really ensure waste is eliminated at the source but he wasted that opportunity. We will all pay the price of such failure, the consequences might smell to high heaven.
Annex – Press Release text
Press release by Minister Naughton. 27/6/17
Press Release: Minister Denis Naughten announces Household Waste Collection Charging Arrangements
The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, T.D., today (27 June 2017) confirmed that a more flexible framework for waste collection charges has been approved by Government.
The Minister stated “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. Therefore, I have decided not to impose a compulsory ‘one size fits all’ per-kilogramme charging system on waste collectors.”
The amount of waste sent to landfill has increased in the last two years. In 2016, there was insufficient capacity to dispose of residual waste and emergency powers were invoked by the regulatory authorities to make additional landfill capacity available. It is important to act now to encourage waste reduction to avert a return to an over-dependence on landfill. An incentivised pricing structure for household waste collection is an important measure in this regard.Under the new arrangement, waste collectors will be given the flexibility to continue to offer, or to introduce, a range of incentivised pricing options to their customers. These options include elements or combinations of standing charges, and per-lift, per-kilogramme.
Under the new arrangement, waste collectors will be given the flexibility to continue to offer, or to introduce, a range of incentivised pricing options to their customers. These options include elements or combinations of standing charges, and per-lift, per-kilogramme, weight-bands, and weight allowance charges.
A “one size fits all” mandatory, nationwide per-kilogramme charging system will not be implemented.
However, ‘all-in flat rate’ charging for household waste will start to be phased out as customers renew or enter new service contracts.
All waste collectors will be required to start rolling-out food/organic “brown” bins to all localities nationwide with a population greater than 500 people. This will help more households divert waste away from their standard black bins. Further consideration will be given to extending ‘brown’ bin coverage in phases to smaller localities.An annual support of €75 will be introduced for persons with lifelong/long-term medical incontinence. This support will help people meet the average annual cost of disposal of incontinence products. The details and arrangements of this support will be finalised later this year, after further consultation with the stakeholder groups.
An annual support of €75 will be introduced for persons with lifelong/long-term medical incontinence. This support will help people meet the average annual cost of disposal of incontinence products. The details and arrangements of this support will be finalised later this year, after further consultation with the stakeholder groups.
In support of the new arrangements, the three Regional Waste Management Planning Offices will implement an information and awareness campaign in the third quarter of the year.