Waste policy penalises the compliant

May 23, 2013 | Environment, News | 0 comments

Collection and disposal of household waste continues to be a problem in Ireland. In many parts of the country one can see bags of rubbish discarded in laneways or besides roads. The people who have deposited this waste have obviously found a free way to dispose of waste. I do not have any statistics, but I suspect that the chances of getting caught are very low. On the other hand, householders who dispose of waste properly, for example by using a contractor to collect their wheelie bin are paying a high price to comply. In other words, those who comply are penalised (by bin charges) and those that don’t comply are rewarded (by not paying bin charges).

Two separate events lead me to write this blog. The first was seeing the announcement that Dublin City Council admits that there is a huge problem with illegal dumping and is now going to require proof that households use a waste collection service. The second event was whilst on holiday in Lanzarote. At various locations in towns and villages in Lanzarote there are large 1100 litre wheelie bins and people can place their domestic waste in these bins free of charge. Of course, nothing is free, but in Lanzarote the disposal is free at the point of use. In Lanzarote, there is no penalty for compliance and thus there is no fly dumping of rubbish.

If waste disposal in Ireland were made free at the point of use, then there is no disincentive to comply and our towns and villages would be tidier. This is a model used in many other countries. In the UK, for example, bin collection is free at the point of use or you can take all your domestic waste to a bring centre at no charge.

There are significant advantages in making domestic waste collection free at the point of use. Firstly, the bin collection contract can be let to just one operator (in Bray there are four different contractors that ply the road where I live). Having one contractor would reduce traffic, noise and air pollution. Second, you would not need the army of inspectors that Dublin City Council are going to use to check on compliance with legislation and lastly, the problem of fly dumping should be reduced.

The only issue that needs to be resolved is how to pay for this service. In the UK it is paid for via household rates. In Ireland we have just introduced a similar concept, the household charge. If this charge was increased to cover the costs of bin collection then that would be an efficient method. The net cost to those that currently comply should be no more than the current household charge plus the bin charge. It is possible that the bin charge element of the new household charge would reduce due to economies of scale (more people in the net and only one bin operator in each area).

The current system of domestic rubbish collection serves the people of this country poorly. It is time it was changed.