In Stoneybatter on Tuesday, Clare Spain put out her recycling bin bags as usual. As did her neighbours, she says.
On Friday afternoon, she took the bin bags back in.
She had called the waste-management company, Greyhound, to tell them they had missed some bags but they didn’t come back, she says.
Her neighbour’s bags are still sitting out on the street, she says, by phone on Friday and it’s not a one-off. Greyhound regularly fails to pick up the bags, says Spain.
Conor Quinn, a spokesperson for Greyhound, says that the problem is usually customers who leave their bags out too late.
“Greyhound employs industry-leading routing technology,” he says. “On the rare occasion, a road is missed this is quickly identified and a truck will be dispatched.”
There is an ongoing battle in relation to the collection of bags between some residents of the inner-city and the rubbish collection giant.
A Dublin City Council pilot project offers one potential solution that aims to “better waste services”: namely, through on-street communal bins.
These communal bins could mean that householders could leave out a bag of rubbish at any time – and they might help solve other gripes around waste collection in the city too, including illegal dumping, especially if the big street bins were free.
One street either in Stoneybatter or Portobello is set to get access to on-street communal bins, as part of the council’s pilot.
Councillors welcome the idea and some say it dovetails with their wider vision, which they’ve been chipping away at, of bringing waste-management services back under council control.
What’s the Problem?
Many of the compact terraced houses that line the streets of Stoneybatter don’t have space for wheelie bins, so residents have to use the branded bags to leave out their rubbish, says Spain.
But the bags can be ripped open by animals and the system doesn’t include a separate compost collection.
She has her own compost heap in her back garden, she says. Most of the other houses don’t have gardens.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick points to other issues with the current system. People are restricted by the times they can leave rubbish out, which is inconvenient for shift workers.
The small homes mean that many have store rubbish inside, she says – which can be grotty for families with food waste, nappies and big bags of recycling.
Then, says Spain, there is the illegal dumping that plagues the inner city which, as with other parts of Dublin, appears to have worsened in Stoneybatter since the shutdown.
How Would it Work?
Spain is excited by the idea of communal bins on her street. “Anything they can do to try and make it better would be welcome,” she says.
The proposed trial is a “beta project” by Dublin City Council Beta Projects so there is no guarantee that this will be rolled out for the rest of the city, but it could be if it is successful.
According to an online pitch for the project, Dublin City Council is looking to identify a street for the trial, either in Stoneybatter or Portobello.
In the same pitch, it says that the council wants residents to suggest their street if it is a mostly residential street with around 10 to 50 houses and potentially with some apartments too.
There should be some space on the street for the shared bins and perhaps some issues with illegal dumping and residents putting out waste on the wrong days.
Council officials have looked at various solutions in other European cities. In Portimao in Portugal, a small receptacle on the street leads to a deep underground bin underneath.
In Utrecht in the Netherlands residents swipe a card to open the bin, according to the same council online post. They have a number of free deposits each month and if they go above that they have to cough up, it says.
“To begin with we’d explore an above-ground storage solution with some sort of bank of bins above the ground,” the pitch says. “It’s much easier to trial, and will also yield useful learnings in itself.”
The bins provided would be recycling, compost and black bin initially but they could expand that later to take things like batteries too, it says.
The current method of presenting rubbish in bags is not visually desirable and this solution could free up space for people in their yards and gardens, it says.
Taking Back Control
In Spain, lots of cities have communal bins for all kinds of waste, says Green Party Councillor Micheal Pidgeon.
“We’re an outlier in Europe in the way we’ve structured our privatised waste collection service. The collection-only model hampers our ability to try alternative forms of collection, so any trialling is welcome,” he says.
Guidance and funding from the national government would allow the council to experiment more and work out a system that is reliable, efficient and environmentally sound, he says.
Sinn Féin Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh says she is fully behind anything that raises environmental awareness and aims to tackle illegal dumping.
“It has proved successful in other cities so I think we should try it here,” she says.
On-street segregated litter bins failed because people didn’t segregate the waste properly so there would need to be an awareness campaign too to stop cross-contamination, she says. “It is really important that we educate people.”
Council officials don’t want to talk yet about how users will pay for the waste collection. Instead they want to focus on solving the issue of how to store and present waste first, says the pitch for the pilot project.
“I think this is part of the broader discussion that we are having about the whole re-entry of the city council into the collection of rubbish,” says Fitzpatrick, the Fianna Fáil councillor.
In July last year, councillors voted to take waste management back under council control and they are working towards achieving that.
Fitzpatrick says she expects the trial to be free but, if successful, the communal bins could be rolled out to more households – potentially the whole of the city centre.
If that happens there will have to be a discussion then about how it will be paid for. The ideal solution would be to include the communal waste collection in the local property tax charges, says Fitzpatrick.
Residents in places like Stoneybatter “pay a very high property tax and get very little in return for it”, she says.
Illegal dumping has a financial cost to the city council, says Fitzpatrick. “You would have a lot less illegal dumping of waste if this system was operating.”
[CORRECTION: This article was updated 8 May at 20:23. A previous version of this article made reference to an ongoing battle between Greyhound Bins and some Stoneybatter residents linking to an article written in 2016 about a dispute between residents and Greyhound over wheelie bins. We have removed the link so as to properly represent that current disputes between Greyhound and some Stoneybatter residents are not exclusively related to wheelie bins, but the collection of waste bags.]