Council queries new garbage fee based on “User Pay Principle”

09/12/2009 15:21

THE Consumer Council is concerned with the Suva City Council’s new garbage levy of $25 per annum per bin, pursuant to Section 17 of the Suva Garbage Disposal By-Laws 2009 under Public Health Act Cap 111 which comes into effect from January 2010.

Section 17 of the By Law states as follows:

For the collection of the contents of each regulation garbage receptacle, from any premises a charge of $25 per year is to be levied and shall be paid in advance by the owner or occupier no later than the 31st of December of every year.

The law clearly states that each garbage receptacle (bin) is charged $25 per year. This $25 levy is designed to meet the charges associated with Naboro landfill site such as the cartage fees, gate fees, and public holiday opening fees, however, it is questioning whether the “user pay system” here is indeed applied fairly.

SCC’s “user pay principle” basically means a flat rate of $25 for both residential and commercial users. But this is where equality for all is offered with a difference by SCC – that is, for the residential users, garbage will be collected 3 times a week and for commercial users, garbage will be collected 6 times a week. Is this a fair system?

It appears residential users will be subsidizing for the commercial users, who are, without contest, the largest accumulators of solid waste. Obviously, SCC incurs more cost as gate fees and cartage for commercial users in doing collection 6 times a week as compared to residential users. Clearly, there is a difference in terms of the frequency and volume of garbage collected, as well as the standards of rubbish bins used in the city and residential areas. Our question is why should residential clients be paying a flat rate of $25 for only 3 days collection of waste as this would be an unequal treatment in comparison to 6 times collection made for commercial users?

The Council is not opposing the initiative of SCC to implement a user pay system for sustainable collection of rubbish as we feel it is the responsibility of consumers to take charge of their rubbish and maintain a clean and healthy environment based on their consumption. However, the Council wishes to see that SCC plays it fair through proportionate fees and charges levied against the users on equal basis.

The Council is concerned that the new garbage fees will have no major impact on improving the municipality’s services to its ratepayers.  Perhaps it’s another way to generate revenue to compensate for bad governance.

Targeting offenders who create mass pollution of the city environment through severe fines is a better way to collect revenue to ensure city is kept clean and the environment is protected. However, targeting residential users to keep the city clean by collecting garbage 6 times in the city as compared to three in the residential areas is definitely not based on “polluter pay principle”.

Therefore the Council is calling on the SCC to re-consider the so called the “user pay system” of charging a blanket $25 to all users and take on a fairer system to address garbage collection.