Waste charge – to pay or not to pay

A BILL for €190 landed on the floor of the hall last week from South Dublin County Council.

I’m in two minds about whether I should pay it.

On the one hand, I very much favour independent funding of local authorities. I believe that only local funding, probably through a local income tax, will bring genuinely powerful and accountable local government.

On the other hand, this charge is being promoted as an ‘environmental waste charge’. This is a complete fraud.

It has nothing to do with the environment – it’s simply a charge to make up a shortfall in central government funding. And this at a time when the coalition are making a big deal of their tax-cutting record.

But the biggest problem is that it makes a mockery of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

Householders are not polluters – they are consumers. The vast bulk of waste produced by households is packaging and householders have no control over the amount of packaging used in the products they buy.

The waste charge won’t put any pressure on the producers either so it is dishonest to claim that the charge makes the polluter pay.

The problem is that the cost of using a raw material does not include the cost of disposing of it.

There needs to be taxes placed on packaging. Like the plastic bag tax, for example. For years, shops and consumers colluded in the idea that these bags were free.

But they weren’t. They cost a fortune to make, to dispose of and to pick up as litter.

When the charge was levied at the point of sale, demand for these bags dropped dramatically. The lesson is that if people have to pay the costs – they stop incurring the costs.

Now South Dublin’s charge is a flat charge. It costs the same no matter how much you dump. At least Fingal’s tag system is use-sensitive so that, in theory, the consumer might have an incentive to use less packaging. That seems to me to be a round-about way of putting the pressure where it is required.

So should I pay? Mmmmm no, I don’t think so. I think the ‘double-taxation’ argument is silly (someone has to pay) but I don’t feel like paying a bogus environmental tax.

So they’ll have to come and get me.

As Well As That. . .

Why recycling is bad

THE last time I wrote about the waste charges some people contacted me to say that they couldn’t understand my negative view of recycling

Well, it’s simple really. It is better for the environment not to produce things in the first place rather that to continually recycle them.

I’m thinking particularly of packaging rather than end-use items.

In the case of bottles, recycling involves transporting the used bottles to a central depot (harmful emissions, road use, etc); the melting down of the waste glass (use of energy); and the disposal of impurities and waste.

The cycle also has leaks. A large number of bottles don’t get recycled. Some bottles end up in landfill or as litter. Then the cycle begins again.

This is clearly not as good as systems that wouldn’t involve bottles in the first place. At this point it is hard to imagine such systems but as the true cost of packaging is factored into products the more cost-efficient companies will begin to develop no-waste delivery systems.

Recycling is obviously better than sending stuff straight to landfill. But even at this stage, when we send 90 per cent of waste to landfill, we need to start thinking beyond recycling.

Rather than building a huge recycling industry, which becomes self-perpetuating, we should stop using materials which have no use-value in themselves.

(As for incineration, that’s just a step back into the land of the dinosaurs.)

Get a discount for your extra waste

SOUTH Dublin is to charge €125 for a 120-litre wheelie bin and €190 for a 240-litre wheelie bin.

So the more rubbish you generate the less you pay per kilo. What sort of environmental principle is that? Someone’s lost the plot.

The environmental prize

IN order to get us to pay our ‘environmental’ waste charge in time, South Dublin are giving away a prize.

Guess what it is – a weekend in the west planting broadleaf trees? Solar panels for your roof? A year’s supply of organic vegetables, perhaps?

Nope. It’s a car. That’s just what the environment of Dublin needs – another car.