Paul Byrne is confused. He’s not a Greyhound customer, but he says agents of Greyhound made him to take three wheelie bins and are now sending him texts to say his account is overdue.
Byrne says they came to his house and told his partner she had to accept wheelie bins. He says they later cancelled the bins, but that Greyhound still delivered the three bins to his house.
“It’s very confusing. You’d nearly second guess yourself and think you did owe them money,” he says.
Byrne lives on Ard Righ Road near Stoneybatter, and the street has an exemption from the rule brought in earlier this year that compels householders to use wheelie bins. As is the case on many other streets in the city centre, the homes here just cannot accommodate bins.
In Ard Righ, the front doors of the terraced houses are on the street. They have no front yards, and no access to their backyard from outside.
Because they have the exemption, known officially as a “derogation”, this allows them to continue to use bags for their rubbish.
Byrne says he uses D City, a small refuse company. He buys their stickers in a local shop and attaches them to ordinary rubbish bags for collection.
(When asked about Byrne’s situation, a Greyhound spokesperson said they were “precluded from commenting on specific household accounts”.)
Are the Exemptions Necessary?
Greyhound has said in a press release that it believes 90 percent of the houses in the city centre that have exemptions shouldn’t.
But some city councillors disagree: they say most exempt streets simply can’t take bins.
Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne says that in her area the streets that got exemptions were ones that needed them.
Eilis Ryan of the Workers’ Party says approximately 80 percent of houses in the North Inner City don’t have space for bins.
People Before Profit Alliance Councillor Tina MacVeigh is chair of the special committee set up within the council to manage the transition to wheelie bins.
She says about 900 streets are exempt, and that the council exempted entire streets if any of the houses on them couldn’t accommodate wheelie bins. Now there needs to be another review, to see which exempted houses could actually accommodate bins.
That’s the plan, said a spokesperson for the council’s press office: “Dublin City Council is currently planning to begin the process of reviewing approximately 560 of these designated streets where the use of bins may be increased.”
They declined to say which streets would be reviewed. “There are a number of areas where the derogation to permit bag collections will continue and these areas will continue to be serviced by the waste collection industry,” the spokesperson said.
MacVeigh says: “We now need to seek clarity from the Department of the Environment on what exactly is the criteria for a derogation, so we are satisfied that the criteria used is clear and fair.”
A property must be able to comfortably accommodate wheelie bins, she says. It’s not reasonable to expect people to drag bins through their homes to get them to the street for collection.
Why Shouldn’t We All Use Bags?
Ryan says she received an email from Conor Quinn of Greyhound, dated 7 November.
“Greyhound will be withdrawing bag collections from city streets which have not received a derogation from the Council,” the email says. “Due to recent events, Greyhound is also reviewing its bag collections on all streets in the city.”
I asked Quinn on the phone whether money was a motivating factor in the shift to wheelie bins. “Absolutely not,” he said, it’s about the safety of both staff and residents.
In the email to Ryan, Quinn said: “Recently, a collection worker’s hand was pierced by a used syringe discarded in a bag while a child in Ballymun also came into contact with needles.
“We have a duty of care to our employees and must reassess, as a matter of urgency, the dangers to which they are being exposed. Local children are also being exposed to risk.”
Counterfeit bags have also been found by Gardai, he says.
Regardless of what Greyound or other companies say, exemptions allowing households to use bags instead of bins remain in force until further notice, MacVeigh says.
“Anyone who has the derogation but feels that wheelies are being forced on them should contact both DCC and their local councillors,” she said.
Councillor Ray McAdam, who is on the committee with MacVeigh, says that in his area in the north-west inner city, most houses cannot accommodate bins.
“At the end of the day there is a derogation there, and Greyhound should comply with the derogation,” he said. “My view is that they certainly have not been complying.”
Quinn of Greyhound says: “We have always accepted that a small minority of households have a genuine problem storing bins and we will respond accordingly.
“We believe this consists of about 100 streets which we will continue to accommodate. However there is about 900 other streets which received a derogation which we believe can change to bins.”
Are There Other Options?
As a private company, Greyhound can stop collecting waste in an area any time they want.
The problem is that none of the other large waste-management companies collect bags in the city centre.
Panda don’t collect household waste in the city centre, and City Bins also quit the area some time ago. Thorntons don’t cover any of the areas where the residents have the wheelie-bin exemptions.
Smaller local providers are available in many areas though, as Byrne found with D City.
McAdam says the waste regulation committee he and MacVeigh are on is aware of the risk that Greyhound may pull out of bag collection in the inner city.
The committee “will engage with those smaller operators to see if they would have the capacity to take on extra custom that Greyhound don’t appear to want”, he said.