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Bin charges: Everything you need to know about the deal on pay-by-weight and what it means for you

Charges will be frozen for at least the next 12 months.

21/06/2016. Bin Charges. Pictured Fine Gael Minist Minister Simon Coveney speaking to the media earlier this evening Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

UNLESS YOU’VE BEEN living under a rock over the past week, you’re probably well aware there has been a storm brewing around bin charges.

A new pay-by-weight system was set to be introduced at the start of next month, but a backlash from consumers – some of whom believed they could end up paying as much as 200% more – has forced new housing minister Simon Coveney to take decisive action on the issue.

Crisis talks over the weekend and yesterday between the minister and the major players in the industry resulted in Taoiseach Enda Kenny announcing in the Dáil earlier today that charges will be frozen for the next year – meaning that no one’s bill will increase for the time being.

This is no doubt goods news for customers who thought costs were about to skyrocket – but there are still questions that need answering.

So the bin companies have to keep their prices down? 

Not exactly.

Much of the discussions were between Minister Coveney and the Irish Waste Management Agency (IWMA), a body which represents around three quarters of refuse providers in the state.

Speaking to the press earlier this evening the minister said that it was the industry that had recommended the price freeze, and that the onus would be on it to ensure it was implemented.

Greyhound and City Bin Co are two major operators which are not members of the IWMA, but both are on board with the measure.

There are still refuse companies that are not represented by IWMA and which have not explicitly signed up to the deal – although they will be expected to obey it.

Speaking outside Custom House earlier this evening, Minister Coveney said:

I think if anyone behaves outside of this agreement, well then one of the advantages of competition is that customers will be able to switch service providers.

However, refuse companies would want to mind how they go.

While there is currently nothing in place to force the price freeze, the minister said that he had spoken with the Attorney General and primary legislation would be introduced if bin companies failed to comply.

There is a preference for avoiding this course of action though, as its implementation would be complicated and time consuming.

So this is just delaying the problem? 

Not exactly.

Following this overhaul, the minister said that there is now no guarantee that pay-by-weight will be introduced in 12-months’ time.

Over the next six months the government will be stepping up an awareness campaign on pay-by-weight.

The campaign will cost €1.5 million and this money will be provided by the bin companies as part of the landfill levy which had originally been earmarked for an environmental fund.

File Photo Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating a cartel. MINISTER FOR THE Environment will bring in legislation if private companies are found to be abusing the new pay by weight system by hiking up prices for customers. From January next year customers will be able to opt-in to pay-by-weight Source: Laura Hutton

After six months (on 1 January 2017) customers will be given the option to opt-in to the bin charges.

To help them decide whether or not this is a good idea, waste companies will be required to provide customers with two bills – one showing them what they pay under the current system, and one showing them how much they would be paying under pay-by-weight.

At the end of the 12-month period, a full review of the waste industry will take place to decide what the course of action will be moving forward.

What’s being done to reassure householders with medical waste? 

One of them most emotive points in all of this was the major jump in costs that customers who use incontinence pads were set to experience.

It’s a bigger problem than you might imagine, with 60,000 people in Ireland being issued with the pads by the HSE.

Around 65 million pads are used each year, working out at 40,000 tonnes of waste – or around €12.5 million in pay-by-weight costs taken at 35 cents per kilo.

None of this extra cost will now be shouldered by the consumer.

Rather, it will be taken on by the providers, with the landfill costs of €3 million for the 40,000 tonnes being split between the government and the industry.

Is this the end for pay-by-weight?

Pay-by-weight is still very much in the pipeline, but with memories of the calamitous introduction of Irish Water still fresh in the memory, the government knows it has to tread carefully.

“The one thing I was never going to allow,” said Minister Coveney earlier this evening, “was for companies to increase charges to make up for the fact that some of their customer base may have been getting the service at a low cost.”

File Photo Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating a cartel. MINISTER FOR THE Environment will bring in legislation if private companies are found to be abusing the new pay by weight system by hiking up prices for customers. The Department of the Environment has said that 87% of customers would pay less under pay-by-weight Source: RollingNews.ie

Companies increasing their net prices during the “confusion and transition period” had sparked the customer backlash, the minister acknowledged, but this didn’t change the fact that in the long-term it could be a moneysaver for most customers.

“This is about bringing people with us,” the minister said, emphasising that the aim was to introduce the charges “in a way that households welcome”.

The Department of the Environment has previously stated that 87% of homes will pay less under the new regime, a figure the minister said came from a trial sample carried out in the south-east from customers already paying by weight.

Around 20% of the country currently pay their bin charges under a pay-by-weight system.

Read: Green bin charges could be scrapped before they even begin

Also: Bin charges latest: Most companies have agreed to freeze prices for a year

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