Waste charges still missing the target

Our four local authorities have gone their separate ways in charging for waste. Two have got it right and two have got it wrong. And the Government is still getting it wrong.

The City Council and Dún Laoghaire (I’m boycotting the word ‘Rathdown’) have retained fixed charges, while South Dublin and Fingal have stuck with the bin tags.

The retention of a fixed charge for each household is a clear breach of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. The two culprits here are also, admittedly, introducing a pay-by-use element.

Both will charge you €80 before you have even put your bin out. Both will issue you with a quarterly statement, generating paper and incurring administration costs.

The system clearly lessens the incentive to reduce your waste. I have a compost bin and I recycle anything I can, so I put out a bin around once every three weeks. If I was in the City Council or Dún Laoghaire areas my total bill for the year would be €167 or roughly €10 per bin. If I reduced my waste by half I would end up paying €14 per bin. That’s some incentive!

Meanwhile, South County and Fingal charge €6 per bin. Their system is effectively volume-based rather than weight-based. It still encourages people to minimise waste and it rewards people in full for doing so.

As for the national policy, there is still a huge imbalance in the Government’s policy. The manufacturers of packaging and products are not paying enough for the waste they cause. In Ireland, we have the Repak scheme where most companies pay Repak a set annual fee to pay for their waste sins. In return, Repak pays to collect and recycle waste on their behalf.

This is good and has helped Ireland reach its recycling targets. But it is not fundamentally encouraging those who produce the waste to reduce their packaging or to change their means of getting their produce to market. Until those who design and make packaging are put under more pressure, the ideal of a waste-free society will remain a pipedream. And meanwhile, ordinary householders are carrying a disproportionate share of the load.

Manufacturers should face a tax on packaging based on the amount they produce. The Repak scheme should be extended to smaller companies and Repak fees should be on a pay-per-use basis. Just like householders.

Can it, lads

I’VE just made my third trip to the bring centre with my Christmas drinking cans (yep, I brought both of them).

But I couldn’t get them into the recycling container because it was full. Actually, I couldn’t get near the thing because other people had left bags of cans beside the container.

I believe that this is the situation right around the country. I don’t suppose there’s anyone in authority who would raise their hands and admit to gross incompetence here. It’s not like we haven’t drank and produced packaging at Christmas before.

If recycling is to have any credibility, this better not happen again next year.