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Minister's Opening Speech on New Waste Collection Charges

​Private Members Business

4 July 2017


New Waste Collection Charging Arrangements to further encourage waste prevention and improve recycling of food and other recyclable materials from the waste stream

Check Against Delivery

A Leas Cheann Comhairle,

There is an onus on all of us who are serious about how we deal with waste to ensure that the public debate is founded on hard facts and reality.

One of those realities is that we must act now to prevent a return to over-dependence on landfill. As Minister and a Dáil Deputy, it would be inexcusable for me to do nothing and allow a situation to develop where household bins go uncollected on our streets because there is nowhere to bring waste.

This is the motivation behind these proposals and it is why I have listened carefully to those who want to contribute constructively to that debate.

For this reason and to acknowledge the concerns of some households I will establish a pricing watchdog monitoring unit that will provide monthly reports on pricing developments and ask the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission to report on the operation of the household waste collection market.

This will inform the future development of national waste management policy before year end, which will provide an evidence base to establish a regulator to prevent price gouging. This unit will comprise of representatives from the CCPC, my Department, a consumer representative from an organisation such as St. Vincent de Paul and an external economic expert with market knowledge.

I have been saying clearly for some time that I am not introducing a mandatory pay per kilo model. Such a model is too restrictive and it would not be the most appropriate for certain household profiles. Indeed, I have expressed my own concerns in relation to those with lifelong or long-term medical incontinence.

Over half of households currently on a kerbside waste collection are already on an incentivised pricing option and are happy to continue with this model.

In fact – and this is a point that has not been sufficiently emphasised - for these people there will be no change in their situation as a result of the measures I am introducing.

Over the past 12 months I and my Department have engaged with a wide variety of different stakeholders. As a result the Government made a decision last week on the future of the household waste collection market. As I stated at the outset there is not sufficient capacity to deal with household waste unless we make some changes.

Either we change the amount of waste being presented by householders or we build additional facilities to deal with the waste. The choice facing us is that stark. We have moved in this Country from having a landfill in each local authority area to having only 4 landfills currently accepting household municipal waste. None of us wish to revert to the situation we had previously and so difficult decisions are necessary.

“Flat rate fees” are not a good option to encourage behaviour changes as it doesn’t matter how often the household presents bins and it also doesn’t matter how much waste is in the bin presented. This is why “flat rate fees” are being phased out over the next 15 months.

The second change facilitated under last week’s announcement is the roll out of the organic (brown) bin to households in communities of greater than 500. This will encourage households to minimise the amount of waste they generate and segregate the remaining waste. This is to ensure that the minimum waste possible is presented in the residual (black) bin.

The final change is to provide a Government support of €75 per year to assist persons with medical incontinence. This is based on the average cost of disposal of 650kg of incontinence products and was developed in consultation with industry and patient stakeholder groups.

These measures are part of a range of initiatives I am continuing to work on to reduce Ireland’s waste including:

  • the roll-out of food/organic “brown” bins to all communities with a population in excess of 500 people;
  • an anti-dumping initiative to support the clean-up of dumping black-spots and to target those who engage in this illegal practice through appropriate enforcement actions and the use of overt and covert surveillance equipment, drone technology and other enforcement tools, with 85projects approved to date this year and a total available allocation of €1.3 million;
  • the provision of €9 million this year to support waste enforcement by local authorities;
  • the expansion of the EPA’s 'stop food waste' campaign, as well as the launch of a Food Waste Charter in March 2017 and an Action Group on Wasted Food in the Retail Sector;
  • the student-led Green-Schools programme, which promotes long-term, whole-school action for the environment with involvement from the wider community and has resulted in diverting 4,700 tonnes of waste from landfill in a single academic year;
  • the Repak ‘Recycle and Change for the Better’ schools programme, launched in the last school term, which educates our future generations about the benefits of best recycling practices, changing behaviours towards recycling and ultimately reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and the level of recycling bin contamination;
  • the introduction of a new scheme to manage end-of-life vehicles to stop the dumping of vehicles;
  • the imminent launch of a new scheme to manage waste tyres to tackle the widespread dumping of tyres in rural areas;
  • the on-going awareness and education campaign by the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices to assist householders in reducing their waste and recycling more effectively;

Emergency measures were needed twice last year to deal with the capacity crisis which was taking place. If emergency measures had not been taken it would not have been possible to have householder’s bins collected. This is an ongoing issue. We need to deal with the problem or we will be in a situation by 2020 where we will have no facilities available to deal with 2 months of waste collection.

Rhetoric and grandstanding will not change this, decisions are required.

We are also facing challenging EU targets and we need to incentivise households to do the right thing and reduce the amount of residual waste we generate. Failure to meet an existing or future target leaves the State open to infringement proceedings and potentially punitive fines.

The changes the Government is making to the proposed mandatory per kilo charging system means that there is the potential for more competition in the market.

Rather than only being able to offer a per kilo rate, companies can now offer a range of incentivised pricing options, examples of these include;

  • per kilo charge
  • lift fee and per kilo charge
  • weight band charging
  • weight allowance plus per kilo surcharge for excess weights

Labour deputies have proposed that the EPA should replace local authorities and run competitions for waste collection.

However, when Deputy Kelly was Minister for the Environment, he did not introduce competition for the market and he did not agree with the introduction of a regulator as he launched pay-by-weight in 2015. The EPA is an environmental regulator therefore it has no expertise in economic and pricing regulation. It would not be advisable to divert the EPA from its primary goal of improving Ireland’s environment.

People Before Profit deputies want to turn back time and ‘remunicipalise’ waste collection and abolish all charges. However, it is clearly unrealistic to manage waste for free. Who will pay for those services. If a municipalised waste is to be environmentally sustainable, why should a good recycler pay the same as someone who makes no effort to reduce waste.

Sinn Fein claims that this new arrangment unfairly impacts on vulnerable customers. Of course, half of households are already using the new arrangements. However, we are providing a support for incontinence products that is based on the weight of those products. We are rolling out more organic/food bins so that families can divert more waste from landfill. Families can choose a lift charge option that gives them certainty on costs if they put their bin out once per month and there is nothing in the new arrangement that would prevent a local authority from implementing a waiver scheme in its area.

The changes I have announced will allow for far greater competition, when the option was a single pricing plan competitors were restricted by what they could offer. What I have announced means no change for half of the households in the market using a kerbside collector and for the other half the operators can offer a variety of plans as long as they incentivise waste reduction and segregation. If a company is not offering what the market wants it is open to a competitor to offer a different plan which does meet market demand. This is what drives down prices, open competition and pricing options.

The basic message to households is to think about the waste they produce.

When price plans are offered to the less than half of the market not currently on an incentivised plan from Autumn this year to Autumn next year, it will make some demands on households. To control your waste costs it will be necessary for households to minimise the waste they generate and segregate the remaining waste properly.

We have to make changes and it is only right that the more you produce the more you should pay. Unless people want to see the re-emergence of landfills in every local authority area we need, collectively, to make the transition from taking little notice of what goes into the “black” bin to being conscious of what we are dumping. What we are doing is most certainly not about imposing financial hardship on families.

Far from it. Nobody leaves lights and the immersion on anymore when there is an incentive to turn them off. This is a similar behavioural change we need to introduce. We, in Ireland, were the first to introduce behavioural changes in relation to plastic bags and it worked.

Using our bins properly will not only make a difference to our waste costs, it will also make an enormous difference to our environment and to our future.

I look forward to hearing what Deputies have to say.


Speech Documents