Council prioritises recycling over convenience

Blue and green bin collections in Mullingar and Athlone will now be on alternate weeks only from August 28 after a local firm’s ad hoc collections were stopped by 2009 legislation.

Though agreeing with the theory of the order, Mick Wallace believes this could lead to the loss of jobs, and will definitely lead to reduced hours amongst his workforce of 38.

His firm - Wallace Recycling - was recently ordered by Westmeath County Council to stop its custom of collecting whatever tagged bin was outside a customer’s house, and to only collect a green or blue bin on alternate weeks.

According to Dave Hogan from Offaly County Council, all five local authorities in the midland region adopted a set of waste management bylaws in May 2009 to encourage recycling and reduce landfill.

“One of these bylaws requires that waste collectors cannot collect green bins [landfill] more often than blue [recycling] bins,” said Mr Hogan.

“It gives people the opportunity to have their blue bins emptied more often, and enforcement has been stitched into waste collection permits,” he said.

“That’s the whole premise behind these bylaws - to encourage recycling.”

He added that Offaly was the nominated authority amongst the five (Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Laois, north Tipp ) to issue these permits.

“There’s going to be job losses, and lorries taken off the road. I’m going to lose customers because of this,” said Mick Wallace.

“They’ve been a long time warning me, but if I don’t they’re going to take my permits off me. It’s either go legal and lose a bit of money, or lose the case,” he said.

He explained how, if one of his lorries saw an appropriately tagged bin - regardless of colour - they would collect it, in line with customers’ demands.

“If a bin’s not out, that’s Mick Wallace’s loss,” he explained.

Because it costs €8 to tag a landfill bin and just €3 for a blue bin, Wallace believed this practice encouraged recycling, but the local authority disagreed, and ordered it to stop.

“We need to go back to manufacturers, but at the end of the day, it’s down to money and markets,” said Mick Wallace. On behalf of himself and his wife Linda, he wished to offer apologies to any customer of Wallace Recycling who might be inconvenienced.

There is no landfill facility in Westmeath with the closures of the Curraghmore and Ballydonagh facilities, and with the closure of the last such site in Offaly scheduled for October, the only available landfill in the Midlands will be the Kyelitsha dump in Laois. The cost to use this facility has recently gone up from €30 to €50, and is expected to rise again to €75 in the next year and a half.

Nearly 114,000 tonnes of household waste is generated per annum in the five midland counties.

Westmeath recycling has improved from 7 per cent in 2003, to 32 per cent in 2009. The council has published a target of 46 per cent for 2013.

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