PRIVATISING bin services is turning Ireland’s cities into rubbish dumps, local politicians fear.
It’s almost a decade since city councils outsourced household waste collection, a move condemned by politicians as the most soul destroying and damaging thing done to residents in years.
And some local reps blamed the disaster on anti-bin charge campaigners, who made it financially inviable for councils to continue the service by encouraging people not to pay back in the early 2000s.
Independent Cllr Damian O’Farrell said the privatisation was “the single most damaging thing done” to Dublin city in the last dozen years, and he raged: “Parts of our city are filthy and it’s so unfair on the majority of people living in the city.”
In 2012, Dublin City Council outsourced the collecting of household waste to private companies eventually including the likes of Greyhound, Thorntons, Panda and the City Bin Company, following on from Cork making the same decision in 2011.
The result, according to the vast majority of local reps polled by the Irish Sun, has been an unmitigated disaster, as hard-pressed or disinterested households opt to illegally dump their waste rather than pay charges which range from €177 to €468 a year.
Some 35 out of 93 reps in the two city councils responded, with 29 saying they felt the privatisation of waste management had failed.
Just four believed it had been a success, while two were vague.
Cllr O’Farrell told the Irish Sun: “People are responsible for rubbish. And there is a percentage of the population now that just won’t use bins. They just dump, fly-tip, go down laneways — they’ll never pay.
“When the bins were free people put the bins out and everything was taken away. But now some people are just going out looking for places to dump.
“There are a lot of people that simply do not want to pay — or maybe they can’t. But there are also people going around in vans, collecting rubbish from people for a few quid and then just dumping it.”
He added: “Before, the bin guys used to just take everything. Because they were working for the council there was pride there, and they wouldn’t leave the road until it was clean. Now it is completely different.
“I have a case now where there are bins in somebody’s house where the person is deceased, but they won’t collect the bins — even though neighbours have been asking and the bin is full — because there is no money to be gained from that collection.”
Dublin city Fianna Fail councillor Briege Mac Oscar said illegal dumping has become “probably the number one issue reported” to her, with Ballymun, Finglas and the north inner city being blackspots.
She said: “In my area it’s soul destroying. Ballymun has a tidy town and some great community people but unfortunately there is a lot of illegal dumping everywhere. It’s heartbreaking for the people trying to improve the area.
“I’d have reports several times a week of household waste bags being left beside bins, green spaces having bags left in them, and laneways covered with rubbish. It’s consistent every single week.”
Ballymun Tidy Towns chair Robert Murphy said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Greyhound, City Bin Co, or the city council collecting, the issue is people are dumping and destroying our communities and destroying our countryside. To address that you need to get under the skin of why somebody wakes up in the morning thinking about, ‘Where am I going to dump my rubbish?’”
Between 2012 and 2018, Dublin City Council dealt with over 14,000 cases of illegal dumping complaints.
Cllr Mac Oscar said privatisation has compounded the situation “as some people just aren’t minded to take out a bin contract”, adding that enforcement can be costly for the council.
NATIONALISATION THE BEST SOLUTION
She said: “Nationalising the waste service is the best solution. When you think of all the resources that go into clearing littering and illegal dumping and chasing up enforcement, it’s probably just as well for the state to provide those services again.”
Local authorities across Ireland spend about €100million a year fighting fly-tipping and roadside rubbish dumping.
DCC spends roughly €1m every year on illegal dumping clean-up — collecting and disposing of almost 4,000 tons of such rubbish in 2019 alone.
Dublin city Green Party councillor Michael Pidgeon said “bin collection is a natural monopoly and would be best served by a single, public system”.
In July 2019, DCC said a working group would work on compiling a report on the feasibility of handing waste collection services back to the city.
The council estimated that it would cost roughly €29million per year to take back charge of the household waste collections, in response to a motion from People Before Profit councillor Tina MacVeigh.
The Irish Waste Management Association says its member companies employ more than 5,000 people and have a combined annual financial turnover of approximately €1billion.
They declined to comment when approached by the Irish Sun but said that they looked forward to seeing our findings. And Cllr MacVeigh insisted: “Household waste certainly needs to be re-municipalised.
BETTER SERVICE POSSIBLE
“And if that means that some of the companies are going to lose business, my argument would be that the workers can be taken back in under the public services, and we could possibly have a better service, with better paying conditions for workers.”
Independent Cork city councillor Mick Finn said there was “lots of dumping and rubbish which is costing the council”, and added: “The Government should introduce a waiver scheme — similar to the fuel allowance type of schemes — where those on low incomes could get a reduced fee on charges.”
Solidarity councillor Fiona Ryan said private waste collection “has clearly failed” and that “only a return of waste services to council will see this failure reversed as the most prolific dumpers know how to cover their tracks”.
Workers’ Party councillor Ted Tynan added: “It should be handed back to the local authorities on a not-for-profit basis, and funded by general taxation.
“We estimate about 27 millionaires have been created since the waste management was taken from the local authorities and privatised.”
Leaving rubbish in a public place is an offence, and can result in on-the-spot fines of €150, or a maximum fine of €4,000 if convicted.
ANTI-CHARGE CAMPAIGN BLAME
Dublin city Labour councillor Dermot Lacey said privatisation “should not have happened” and pointed the blame at the political parties and groups “who campaigned against democratically determined bin charges”.
Party colleague, Cllr Mary Freehill, said those “who campaigned for people not to pay their bin charges caused the privatisation of the bin service”. She said: “On Dublin City Council we were owed €18million in outstanding charges which made it impossible to continue.”
Fianna Fail Cork city councillor Terry Shannon said: “We had a clientele of about 24,000 houses, with roughly half getting a waiver. But the problem was that there was a big campaign encouraging people not to pay their charges. So it became unaffordable for the city council to continue.
“I said at the time that people who are vulnerable and are on low incomes, who were getting either a full or half waiver, will end up paying the full whack if the service was privatised — and that’s exactly what happened. And that’s the fault of Sinn Fein and Mick Barry and his ilk.”
Solidarity TD Barry hit back saying: “I was jailed for my opposition to bin charges back in 2001. Everybody knew at the time that once the charges came in that the bins would be privatised. My only regret is that the campaign was defeated…the bin services should be taken back into public ownership with charges scrapped, and councils provided with sufficient funding.”
WE ASKED: Do you think the privatisation of bins has worked?
NO: Michael Pidgeon, Christy Burke, Damian O’Farrell, Dermot Lacey, Donna Cooney, Declan Meenagh, Keith Connolly, Briege Mac Oscar, Catherine Stocker, Darragh Moriarty, Mary Freehill, Daithi Doolan, Nial Ring, Hazel Chu, Michael Mac Donncha, Michael Watters, Joe Costello, Lorna Bogue, Mick Finn, Thomas Moloney, Kenneth O’Flynn, Mike Nugent, John Maher, Kenneth Collins, Fiona Ryan, Dan Boyle, Terry Shannon, Ted Tynan, Eolan Ryng.
YES: Des Cahill, Sean Martin, Tony Fitzgerald and Fergal Dennehy.
UNCLEAR: Kieran McCarthy and Daryl Barron.