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'It's archaic that we've side-by-side competition': Dublin City Council pushes for single waste collection

Councillors voted last week to kick-start a process aimed at taking waste collection back into public ownership.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

A SINGLE WASTE collection service for Dublin could be on the cards after city councillors voted last week to kick-start a process aimed at taking waste collection back into public ownership. 

The council stopped collecting waste in Dublin city in 2012. Since then, a number of private operators including Greyhound, Panda and City Bin, have collected household waste.

Following the vote, a working group will be set up later this year to examine how feasible it is for Dublin’s waste collection to be re-municipalised. 

Yet for the council to re-enter the waste collection market, a number of measures will be required. Cost and new legislation will require serious consideration. 

Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan told TheJournal.ie that last week’s council vote is not just symbolic. Doolan has been working with trade unions SIPTU, Fórsa and Connect. “They believe it’s absolutely workable,” he said. 

It’s a better service for the public, a better service for the environment and a better service for the workforce.

‘Significant Investment’

In a report to councillors last month, Assistant Chief Executive Dick Brady said it would cost €29 million per year for the council to take charge of household waste collection in the city. 

A council report drafted in response to a motion by People Before Profit councillor Tina MacVeigh – who  has pushed for the council to re-enter the waste collection market – notes that “there have been considerable changes to the market” since it stopped collecting household waste. 

“Significant investment” would also be needed in terms of both personnel and capital equipment.

Factors considered by the council include revenue generation, disposal costs and competition from private companies. 

Based on estimates from 2011 when the council was still operating household waste collection, the council estimates that it would require at least 147 staff to operate household waste collection across the city again with wages and salaries estimated to cost €6 million per year. 

Vehicle maintenance and repair could cost the council nearly €2 million annually, the report notes, while disposal costs could be up to €7 million each year.

Since it exited the household waste collection market, the council has been trialing initiatives to reduce – or punish – littering and illegal dumping in recent years. 

Dublin City Council dealt with over 14,000 cases of illegal dumping complaints between 2012 and 2018 with over 6,000 bags of illegally dumped rubbish left in Dublin’s north inner city last year.

Tactics to prevent the practice include ‘naming and shaming’ through the use of CCTV images. 

In 2017, the council initiated 322 legal actions against people illegally dumping and took 95 legal actions last year. 

The cost of removing and disposing of illegally dumped waste in Dublin was estimated to be €1.1m.

‘Single Service’ 

Despite the projected costs associated with taking waste collection back under the control of Dublin City Council, management are willing to work towards a new model, according to Sinn Féin’s Doolan. 

“They’ve come back and agreed that there should be a single [waste] service for Dublin,” he said. 

Nobody’s talking about turning the clocks back to 2012. We’re talking about having a new state-of-the-art waste collection service.

Instead, Doolan argues that Dublin should move towards a model whereby waste collection providers bid for council contracts. 

“It’s archaic that we’ve side-by-side competition,” Doolan has said. 

Legislation from the Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment is required in order to introduce a regulator which will award a contract for the city’s waste collection – a contract Doolan says Dublin City Council could likely win. 

A council spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that the recent vote “sets in train a process to constitute a working group comprising Councillors and Officials to investigate and report on the feasibility of re-municipalisation of Dublin City waste collection service by the City Council.”

“The Group are to meet in September and prepare a report for consideration by the Elected Members of the City Council.”

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