The High Court in Dublin has ruled that Dublin City Council has abused its dominant position in the household waste collection market in a bid to remove rival private operators.
The Irish Times (22 December) stated that High Court judge Mr Justice Liam McKechnie quashed a variation to the Dublin region waste management plan whereby only the councils, or contractors appointed by them, could collect household waste.
The case arose from a challenge by private waste management firms Panda Waste Service, and Greenstar, which took separate cases against the councils claiming the variation to the plan was an abuse of their dominant position and contrary to competition law.
According to the Irish Times, Panda had claimed this was an attempt to stop private sector collection of waste and amounted to a fundamental change in the organisation of the market so as to effectively remove competition.
Mr Justice McKechnie told the High Court that if a private firm collects waste then they own it and can determine where the waste goes.
The Greenstar decision has yet to be decided.
Dublin is broken down into four local authority areas; Dublin City Council, Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
At the moment, Dublin City Council, which is the dominant player, is solely responsible for collecting residential waste, be it residual waste or green bin waste.
Household waste charges were introduced in Dublin in 2001 but individuals do not pay council tax. Waste contractors and the council can collect from specific clusters of routes.
It is thought that Panda was the first waste firm to enter the household waste collection market in Dublin in 2006.
Dublin City Council has a long-term contract with US-based waste firm Covanta to provide it with 300,000 tonnes of waste per year for the Poolbeg incinerator. If the council does not meet this target, it will have to compensate the owners.
A source close to the case told MRW: The council wanted to control where the waste went to justify the waste incinerator. The council wanted to effectively tender its own routes and award itself its own routes to control where the waste goes.
In a further twist to the case, recent media reports suggest that a stand off is developing between Irish Environment Minister John Gormley and Dublin City Council, with the council refusing to disclose details of a contract it signed for the proposed incinerator at Poolbeg in the capital. Gormley has indicated that he will appoint an inspector to investigate the agreement between the council and the developers of the incinerator.