I propose to take Questions Nos. 281, 283 and 284 together.
The charges applied by waste management companies are matters for those companies and their customers, subject to compliance with all applicable environmental and other relevant legislation, including contract and consumer legislation.
In terms of environmental requirements, the charges applied should encourage householders to divert waste from the residual or general waste bin. For example, it would be expected that charges for the general waste bin would be higher than charges, if any, applied to the recycle bin.
The Government has funded a range measures to support better recycling and reduce contamination of waste, including:
- a national, standardised list of items that can go into the recycle bin has been established, which is available at http://recyclinglistireland.ie/;
- this standardised list has been supported by a public education campaign run by the regional waste management authorities, comprising radio advertisements, social media, billboards/posters, etc., to promote the new list; and,
- a ‘master recycling’ programme, also run by the regional waste management authorities, in partnership with environmental NGOs, to roll out 650 workshops across the country training recycling ambassadors to bring the recycling message and understanding to a wide variety of communities;
Almost all paper and plastic packaging is governed by EU internal market and packaging legislation. In that context, as Minister, I have called on the European Union to urgently consider collectively banning single-use plastic items on foot of the EU Plastic Strategy to further protect the environment and to help alleviate the impact of the decision by China to restrict its intake of recyclable waste.
In addition, I have also provided Government funding to support and encourage better separation of waste through a number of initiatives such as:
- the Stop Food Waste programme www.stopfoodwaste.ie, which is implemented under the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Waste Prevention Programme and is aimed at both householders and businesses, providing comprehensive information about the food that is wasted and how to prevent this, and,
- the development of a website www.brownbin.ie to provide the public with the information required to use the organic bin appropriately, including advice on the optimal methods for effective collection and storage of food waste.
In terms of pricing, I established a Household Waste Collection Price Monitoring Group (PMG) last year to monitor the rates charged by household waste collectors during the phasing out of flat rate fees. The PMG has met each month since September 2017 and has considered six months of pricing data trends. The PMG has indicated that, in the vast majority of cases to date, prices have remained stable. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is also currently conducting a separate study on the operation of the household waste collection market which it will complete in 2018.
The results from the PMG are being monitored, and in conjunction with the study being undertaken by the CCPC, will provide an evidence base for future decisions in relation to the need for further regulation of the waste market.