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Dublin: 3 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019
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Alan Kelly: 'I never envisaged the dramatic increase in bin charges'

“This was always the sword of Damacles to be held over their heads.”

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

THE FORMER MINISTER responsible for introducing pay-per-weight waste charges has said he did not envisage price hikes under the new system.

This week, householders were notified that their waste collection charges could double or even treble in some cases over the coming months.

Both Greyhound and Thorntons Recycling customers were told that yearly standing charges of €50 would be replaced with weekly service fees of €2 or €3.

In a statement this evening, Labour TD Alan Kelly claimed he had “made it perfectly clear” to waste companies that if they tried to exploit the situation in this way, the Statutory Instrument (used to bring in the pay-per-weight system) would be revised “to force their hands”.

In typically strong language, he said:

As far as I was concerned, this was always the sword of Damocles to be held over their heads, that would incentivise them to grow up as an industry. Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent weeks, they have failed to do so.

He accused the firms of trying to take advantage of the political vacuum that arose after the election. However, he stopped short of mentioning a ‘cartel’, as a number of TDs had in the Dáil yesterday.

“I’m not suggesting that there is commercial collusion taking place here – that of course would be a criminal offence – but it has become clear in recent weeks that competition in the waste market is not functioning properly and that a greater level of intervention from the state is required,” he said.

Irish general election Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Tipperary deputy called on the current minister to respond appropriately by restricting the standing charge a company can impose.

I would urge Simon Coveney to intervene to ensure that the waste companies can no longer gouge their customers, and if the Minister brings forward workable proposals in that regard, I will be happy to support them.

Earlier today, Coveney confirmed that he would bring in further legislation if private companies are found to be abusing the new system which sees customers pay for how much waste they leave out in their black and brown bins.

He is due to meet with the relevant firms next week and will ask them to explain the 200% price hikes.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald also said that the new system was meant to lower charges for customers and not act as an excuse to increase them.

“We do not want to see consumers exploited in any way,” she said.

“This is not acceptable to the government or the minister.”

Cartels?

The new pricing structures are due to kick in on 1 July. From that date, customers will pay a flat-rate charge, plus an amount for every kilogramme of waste produced (11 cent for black bin waste and six cent for brown bin waste per kilo).

The controversy grew legs yesterday after Dublin South Central TD Joan Collins and the Social Democrat’s Roisin Shortall accused waste companies of operating “a cartel”.

Today, countless politicians issued statements looking for immediate action and caps on charges. There have also been calls for waivers for those with larger families or specific health needs.

The Green Party pointed the finger back at Alan Kelly, saying the new structures were ill-devised and lacked preparation.

More: Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating ‘a cartel’

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