Dublin's flawed `partnership' for recycling
ROISIN DE ROSA exposes the pig in a poke being sold to Dublin householders, who are being peddled a painfully inadequate recycling scheme that will benefit private companies at the taxpayers' expense and pave the way for an unwanted incinerator
``The four Dublin local authorities and Oxigen have formed a public private partnership. This partnership and Bailey Waste Paper will deliver a sustainable Dry Recyclable Service to the househoulders (sic) of Dublin.'' So read a multicoloured leaflet circulated door to door last month in Dublin's Blanchardstown and Castleknock areas by Oxigen.
Dublin Corporation is charging householders waste collection fees under false pretences that they are providing a `new waste strategy', whereas in fact they are doing no such thing.
Oh really. And just who is Oxigen? It must be a very powerful company indeed to be in a ``partnership'' with the four Dublin regional local authorities, which, along with JR Bailey, is going to do the recycling of dry household waste for an estimated 350,000 households.
Oxigen has taken on the job of recycling dry household waste matter, which will amount to some 100,000 tons per annum, two thirds of which at least is paper and cardboard. They must have a very large industrial plant indeed to handle all this matter for the Dublin City and regions.
But as a matter of fact, Oxigen has no such plant at all. It is a new company, with as yet no audited records, first registered last October. Oxigen has two directors, Helen and Damien Malone, who both live in Balbriggan, County Dublin. Helen Malone, a ``Charetered (sic) Secretary'', owns two ordinary shares in the company, which were bought for a consideration of £1 each, cash. Damien Malone is a statistician. The total number of authorised shares in Oxigen is 1,000.
Dublin's partner in the waste business
The question of what the four Dublin regional authorities think they are doing with such a partner for their public private partnership becomes even stranger when, on ringing Wheeliebins in Dundalk, the receptionist replies ``Hello, Oxigen.''
Wheeliebins, Ltd collects rubbish from many parts of North Leinster, going as far south as Kildare and Wicklow. The company which is run by Sean Doyle and Sean Rooney, appears to have a special relationship with Louth County Council, because Wheeliebins is the very company that has been the source of so much trouble in Drogheda, when over last Christmas and New Year holiday, Drogheda Corporation closed down its local bin collection service, unknown to their staff. Coincidentally, leaflets appeared round the doors from Wheeliebins, advising people that their company was taking over collection services in the town and people would need to pay £90 charges immediately if they wanted waste collection services to continue.
Wheeliebins Recycling Capacity
The directors of Wheeliebins, Ltd., Dundalk, could not be contacted before we went to press, because they were involved in trying to resolve the on-going dispute in Drogheda. There, a crowd of some 50 protestors was surrounding their collection bin lorry, in protest at their efforts to collect rubbish off the few people who have paid, leaving the rest of the trash behind.
Sinn Féin's Arthur Morgan points out that Wheeliebins does have a `Recyling Depot', in Dundalk, called the Dundalk Civic Amenity Centre, where they are prepared to take in a number of recyclables, from cardboard and newspapers to clothes, old shoes, car batteries, oil, scrap metal, builders' rubble and white goods.
``Its little more than a shed,'' says Morgan, ``and they've strange conditions on what they will accept. For example, if you want to bring in a pair of old shoes, then Civic Amenity Centre declares they must be clean, have laces, and be tied together to be acceptable. They don't mention the clothes need to be on hangers.'' Hardly the stuff upon which Dublin's regional authorities can rely, in partnership, for the launch of the new waste management strategy of recycling for the next millennium.
Charge for Wheelie Bins
However the leaflet only mentions the door-to-door collection of ``newspapers, magazines, light cardboard packaging, aluminium cans and steel cans'', once a month, door to door, in the special green bins which will be provided - at a price. Two weeks ago, the City Manager was unable to provide councillors with any further details. This, however, did not stop the councillors from voting their support for this charge on the 150,000 Dublin City householders.
Dublin Councillor Dessie Ellis has accused those councillors who backed the proposals of gross irresponsibility. He says they were satisfied to vote open ended cheques to the corporation, on behalf of their partners, Oxigen, or Wheeliebins Ltd., which it is reasonable to suppose have been allocated the contract to supply the wheeliebins, at something like £30 each - a contract worth at least £3 million. Extended to the whole Dublin region, the supply contract comes to nearer £8 million. Quite a substantial opening for a company which has a £1,000 authorised share capital, with two directors, one of whom has contributed £2 cash.
Dublin's commitment to recycling?
According to the leaflet, the regional authority partnership with Oxigen and Bailey Waste Paper is going to deliver full ``Sustainable Dry Recyclable Service to househoulders''. What capacity has JR Baileys to recycle paper? None.
J R Baileys Waste Paper `recovers paper'. It does not recycle it. It does just the same job as the estimable community project in Dublin's North Inner City, the Sunflower Project, which collects some waste paper, sorts it, shreds some of it, and takes it up to Smurfits, when Smurfits is willing to take it.
Bailey's capital equipment to deal with what for the whole Dublin region may amount to at least 60,000 to 70,000 tons per annum of household waste paper for recycling consists of a conveyer belt, magnets to pick out the cans, and a team of mostly women, armed with plastic gloves to separate the card, from the newsprint, from the white gloss etc.
Baileys then compacts the `separated paper' into bales and ships it off in containers to England, or the continent, which may then ship it on to the rest of the world, especially the Far East, where labour to further sort the paper is cheap.
How is this recycling? A Dublin Corporation spokesperson stresses the point that Baileys ``will guarantee that the end use of the collected household waste paper is for recycling. That is a condition of the contract''.
But there is the rub. The market for recyclable paper is extremely volatile. It often moves into glut, with the price for recyclable paper falling to negative. Smurfits, a major world player in producing cardboard boxes and paper, already takes 80,000 tons of commercial waste paper, which they collect. It uses about 45,000 of this and sells the rest abroad. Smurfits will often offer a negative price for recyclable paper. You sometimes have to pay them to take the paper. The price offered varies week to week over a range between £20 per ton and negative £20 per ton.
d this of course is where the partnership comes in again. To get rid of the recyclable paper, whoever takes it will often need a heavy subsidy to make it commercially viable. The size of the subsidy depends on market volatility, which can vary week to week from positive to negative price. And of course the Corporation will have to cover this charge.
So there again is a great opening for a middleman, who can take the paper and ship it on to a customer abroad. Another open-ended cheque which the regional authorities will need to write to the lucky private company which gets selected for `partnership', which at the end of the day might find it altogether better commercial practice to throw the paper into the sea, because its cheaper.
The only paper manufacturer in Ireland is Smurfits, the multi-national conglomerate. They already take some 100,000 tons of commercial waste paper, 45,000 tons of which is used, as recycled paper, in production. Smurfits has not so far announced any contract with the four regional authorities to recycle the household wastepaper, and management is shy to discuss the prospect.
yone familiar with the US experience of waste companies (in particular Waste Management, Inc., the world's leading waste disposal company, which wants to build a mega landfill at Silvermines, in Tipperary) will know that ``private public partnerships'' in the field of waste tend to be a licence to print money. It would seem that Dublin Corporation, working to the Mary Harney agenda of such `partnerships', is well on course.
Waste Charges double tax
Meanwhile the Dublin region's 350,000 householders have been sold a pig in a poke. The city manager, at the July meeting of the council, dismissed as ridiculous the suggestion that the waste charges he hoped to impose were a tax on householders. ``Not at all,'' he said. ``It is a payment for an entirely new form of waste management - a better way.''
``A better way'' to transfer money to selected companies, perhaps, but scarcely to recycle waste. The recycling element lies in the ``bring centres'', like the bottle banks, the textile banks and so on, where householders have to transport the recyclable waste themselves to the bank. And for these items there is a market. There is a market for glass, with Irish Glass Bottle Co., and Quinns, from Fermanagh. These companies, it was considered in the Dublin Coporation Waste Strategy document of January 1999, would be able to recycle all the Dublin region's glass. But Dublin isn't collecting these recyclables in door-to-door collections.
In fact, collections of glass have stopped. Dublin Corporation closed down one collection service last year, when it was found out that Kerbside, a pilot project to collect door-to-door and recycle materials, was in fact shipping a very large fraction of these recycles, unsorted, off to the landfill.
Not only is Dublin Corporation not collecting these items separated in door-to-door collections, but crucially, neither is there provision to start separate collection of organic kitchen waste. There is no sign of an attempt to provide facilities for central composting of this waste, which makes up a third of household refuse and accounts for most of the problems with landfill.
Signatures to petition
Aengus Ó Snodaigh and other Sinn Féin activists went out last Saturday to collect signatures to a petition in support of recycling and to demand that the double taxation waste charges be dropped. He started in the heart of Ruairi McGinley's (FG) constituency, because it was McGinley who proposed the motion in the council to impose the charges. ``We collected 700 signatures in just a couple of hours,'' he says, in what is the start of a Dublin-wide campaign.
``Waste management and recycling have to start with extraction of the organic waste for central composting, which represents about one third of household waste. Kitchen organic waste is largely the cause of the smells, vermin, and leacheate associated with landfill. The fact that Dublin Corporation has no intention of dealing with organic waste, or investing immediately in composting facilities, is further proof, if it were needed, that the Corporation is not in the least serious about recycling,'' says Ó Snodaigh. ``It looks as if the Corporation is simply managing waste to ensure that the only solution left to meet EU targets, when it comes to 2003 (the year they plan to start building an incinerator) will be an incinerator, because the capacity to recycle our waste will not have been created.
``Dublin Corporation is charging householders waste collection fees under false pretences that they are providing a `new waste strategy', whereas in fact they are doing no such thing. They are imposing a very substantial tax on householders, in return for `public private partnerships' of dubious intent, and scant, if any, recycling.''
``Without recycling capacity, local authorities can put up the costs of landfill disposal to exorbitant heights, justifying endless increases in the taxes they have already imposed, with a view to making incineration, which is an extremely expensive method of waste disposal, appear a relatively cheap option.
``Waste charges are double taxation. At the end of the day these charges are to make householders pay for incineration which nobody wants, and ``public private'' partnerships which councillors should have enough sense to question and reject.''