Waste Management (Amendment) (Regulator) Bill 2019: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Waste Management Act 1996 to require the Minister to produce a report on the appointment of an independent regulator for the domestic waste management sector, including the regulation of domestic waste charges.

I am sharing time with Deputy Ward. We need to bring our domestic waste management back under public control and the purpose of this Bill is to kick-start that process. The Bill simply requires the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to produce a report into the appointment of an independent regulator for the domestic waste management sector.

It is fair to say that, over the past 20 years, we have seen good and bad transformations in waste management. The bad is that the system has been fully privatised. Costs have gone up and on average householders are paying more for waste collection than ever before.

We have also seen, at the same time, significant improvements in the reduction of waste through the establishment of the green and brown bins. People are recycling more and using waste as a resource rather than simply as something to be disposed of.

The difficulty is that multiple operators are working in the country, meaning that six, seven or eight different operators are often driving into the same housing estates. That is not good for the environment or the proper sustainability of waste management. It wastes money, creates more emissions and does not provide an efficient service.

Sinn Féin has proposed that local authorities start looking at a franchise model as a stepping stone to full public ownership of waste management. Under such a model, local authorities would franchise out the service to contractors in certain areas. I understand that South Dublin County Council has done some work on this and Dublin City Council is doing a feasibility study and spending money to look at the possibility of rolling out this model, which is good. It would be good for the environment if we ended side-by-side collection.

This Bill sets an independent regulatory framework to allow the process to commence and give some coherence to what would be needed by way of policy. Local authorities need to step up to the plate but if the Government is committed to, at the very least, ending the side-by-side collection service, it should support this Bill and I ask it to do so.

I am delighted to co-sponsor this Bill which is a continuation of a campaign that I started during my time on South Dublin County Council.

In June 2016, I reported the waste management companies to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission when waste management companies raised their prices in unison after the proposed pay-by-weight scheme. A conservative estimate saw customers expected to pay an additional 43% for waste disposal than they had previously. This would have been another stealth tax on ordinary workers and families. Customers who decided to shop around and try and get a cheaper rate from alternative waste management companies were dismayed to find that any company they contacted had also increased their prices. The waste management companies were operating a cartel.

The privatisation of domestic waste collection services has failed and has resulted in a poorer quality of service, increased costs for households, negative environmental impacts and increased amounts of illegal dumping.

I grew up in north Clondalkin, an area with many socioeconomic problems, but it was cleaner then than it is now. Areas that could be used to play football or walk dogs are full of litter and the remains of fires from the burning of domestic waste. The impact of the few is having a detrimental effect on the many. However, it is not just irresponsible residents who are contributing to this negative environmental impact. There has also been an increase in commercial dumping whereby unscrupulous, unlicensed and unregulated operators collect waste at a cheaper rate and dump it wherever they see fit.

As Deputy Cullinane just said, because of the different operators, bin trucks can be coming down the streets of an estate on multiple days of the week which increases carbon output.

It is no coincidence that the areas in our country with the worst problems of litter are the most disadvantaged. I am sick of walking through parts of my area and seeing discarded rubbish around the street. This behaviour is sucking the life out of communities.

A Sinn Féin amendment to a Private Members' motion calling for the first step in the return of waste management into council control got cross-party support in the House yesterday. Today's legislation sets us on that legislative path.

Is the Bill being opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.