Queensland Government releases waste directions paper

The Queensland Government has released a directions paper for public consultation to inform the development of its new waste strategy, proposing the cost structure of its new landfill levy and its application.

The directions paper proposes that a general waste levy will commence in the first quarter of 2019 and initially will be set at $70 per tonne of general waste sent to landfill. It says it will increase by $5 per year. According to the directions paper, the rate has been suggested to avoid the high rate in the Sydney metropolitan area of $138.20.

“A high levy rate would create a shock to the market and the current resource recovery infrastructure capacity may struggle to meet high demand to divert material from landfill disposal,” it says.

“However, $70 per tonne is still considered to be high enough to send an appropriate price signal to the market and will act as an immediate incentive to divert heavier materials, such as concrete, from landfill.”

“It is broadly in line with the rates in Victoria and South Australia, and would provide a strong market signal to divert waste from landfill without the market shock of a rate in line with NSW.

“It provides a disincentive to transport a significant proportion of interstate waste to Queensland.”

According to the paper, the legislative and regulatory framework, including a detailed levy model, needs to be drafted, consulted on with stakeholders and progressed through the required approval processes. It notes landfill infrastructure, such as weighbridges and security fencing, needs to be made ‘levy-ready’. The paper goes on to say that industry and government information technology systems need to be redeveloped and made able to ‘interface’ with each other so waste can be measured and the levy owed to be calculated. Furthermore, staff training and broader awareness and education needs to be developed and delivered. Stakeholders will be consulted throughout the process.

The report highlights that local government will be a beneficiary of the proposed levy with funding available for waste disposal infrastructure upgrades, education and awareness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The operator of a waste disposal facility will be required to collect the levy when the waste is presented to the facility for disposal,” the paper says.

“A waste disposal facility may be operated by, or on behalf of, a local government or by a private company. The operator of the facility is required to remit the amount of levy owed, at a timing, and through a process, to be determined in legislation. Operators will also be required to submit data in relation to the waste received at the site for disposal and what was received and segregated for recovery.”

It says that to be effective, the levy will need to apply to all waste. It recognises special circumstances may require some waste to be exempt, including waste from a natural disaster, wastes where disposal is required by a regulation, such as asbestos, quarantine waste or fire ant infested material, litter and illegally dumped waste collected by a council, community group or other organised participant, in an initiative, such as Clean Up Australia Day. Waste received as part of donations will also be exempt.

A Stakeholder Advisory Group is currently in the process of contributing to the development of the waste strategy and is reviewing the directions paper. It will continue to provide input and advice to government.

The Stakeholder Advisory Group consists of representatives from across the waste industry and key business groups, including Local Government Association of Queensland, Australian Council of Recycling, Waste Recycling Industry Association (Queensland), Waste Management Association of Australia, Sustainable Business Australia, Australian Industry Group, Chamber of Commerce Industry Queensland and Master Builders Association Queensland.

Acting Premier Jackie Trad said the directions paper would inform the development of its new waste management strategy – underpinned by a waste levy.

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Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the directions paper set out the Queensland Government’s long-term vision to attract investment, develop new industries and grow jobs across the state in the waste and recycling sector.

Ms Enoch said that, as well as encouraging recycling, the waste levy would facilitate job creation and market development, particularly in regional areas.

“While every 10,000 tonnes of waste disposed into landfill supports less than three full time jobs, the same amount of waste being recycled supports more than nine jobs.

“This price signal will give industry the confidence to invest in alternative and innovative recycling technologies to grow the sector and create jobs.

“This new strategy marks the start of the journey towards a zero waste future.”

The directions paper also proposes the following targets:

• 20 per cent avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2030
• 10 per cent avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2040
• Zero avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2050

The paper indicates the department has already undertaken preliminary work to identify waste that may be feasible for landfill disposal bans, including tyres and e-waste.

“Landfill disposal bans on these waste streams will support the objectives of existing product stewardship programs that already have well-established collection and recovery networks,” it said.

The Queensland Government also plans to look at waste to energy, according to the paper.

The Transforming Queensland’s Recycling and Waste Industry directions paper is available here, with public comment open until 28 June 2018.