On Monday last, outside the McDonagh House complex near Bride Street, in the south of the city, standing beside several large metal bins, were a big green bin and a small brown bin.
These are part of a pilot project, trialling recycling and food-waste bins in flat complexes in the south-east area of the city. Dublin City Council plans to move the pilot project to homes in other parts of the city starting next year.
The pilot area will be complete by the end of 2019, said a council spokesperson. “Plans are already in place to move this project to the next area – South Central before progressing to the other three areas – Central, North Central, and North West.”
Some council tenants have long pushed to get all three types of bins in council-owned complexes. It’s taken years to get to this point.
Back in 2016, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council Press Office was saying that the waste-management company Greyhound was responsible for providing the recycling facilities to all householders.
That position eventually changed, though. Back in 2017, a council spokesperson said it was piloting the introduction of recycling, and recently they said that a pilot project for both green and brown bins is being rolled out in flats in the south-east area of the city.
“Dublin City Council is committed to ensuring waste is disposed of in the correct manner at all council-owned complexes,” says a council spokesperson.
Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, who has been calling for waste segregation to be introduced in social-housing for years was less than impressed.
“It is a fantasy,” he said. “Recycling and waste management is on the floor in social housing complexes.” He sent photos of overflowing bins and said the waste management in council flats “is atrocious”.
While the green and brown bins have been out in the south-east of the city, an environmental charity VOICE has been doing workshops for residents on what goes in which bin, says the council spokesperson.
“A total of nine workshops were required, covering 44 complexes which total just under 3,000 units,” says the council spokesperson. “Significant progress has been made in the pilot area.”
They have introduced one large green bin and one small brown bin in each complex. And in the spirit of the project, the council took away 36 general waste bins, cleaned and sprayed them and re-introduced them as recycle bins, she says.
Mindy O’Brien of VOICE says they work with both adults and kids to teach them about recycling, answer questions and skill them up to become recycling ambassadors and pass on the knowledge to others.
“We have been pushing for apartment complexes to do waste separation for a while,” O’Brien says.
VOICE runs the same workshops in private apartment complexes too. That was funded by the government last year but, unfortunately, now people have to pay for it, she says.
The private complexes are more difficult because they have to deal with several different groups – such as the waste-management company, the apartment-management company and the residents’ groups, O’Brien says.
It helps if the complex management comes on board, putting up signs above the bins so people can see what goes where for example.
Working with Dublin City Council has been great, O’Brien says, because they put up signs in all the complexes and are introducing brown bins for food waste at the same time as recycling. (The lack of brown bins is a problem in lots of apartment complexes.)
O’Brien has met with caretaker staff and housing teams from the council, as well as lots of local residents, she says. Some people thought it wouldn’t work but “it has been very well received”, she says.
As well as running workshops, VOICE developed a reusable recycling bag, which has a list of what goes in the recycling written right on it.
Each resident who participates gets a bag for recycling and a food caddy, she says. “We are trying to make it as easy as possible for people in social housing.”
There are always some issues in apartments, but starting from zero the improvement in recycling in the social-housing complexes in Dublin has been remarkable, she says.
“It is one simple message – what goes into the recycling and now with the DCC pilot what goes into the food bin as well,” she says.
The waste-management companies are reluctant to introduce the three bins in apartment complexes because they are more likely to be contaminated, she says. But there are technical solutions to that, she says.
Managers of complexes could install CCTV and introduce a system whereby you can only access the bins by using your mobile phone, she says. Then they could catch whoever is contaminating the bins.
“It is not that expensive,” she says.