The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) has labelled the NSW State Budget ‘short sighted’, with the real economic potential of the waste and resource recovery industry being bypassed for a reliance on landfill levies.
NWRIC CEO Rose Read said NSW may claim to be open for business, but not when it comes to the economic potential of material and energy recovery from waste.
“The NSW Budget forward estimates show that for 2023-24 there’s an estimated $832 million in revenue being generated from landfill levies, a more than 10 per cent increase on the $751 million projected in the 2020-21 budget,” she said.
“However, only $96 million has been allocated in 2020-21 or less than 13 per cent of the levy collected to help local councils manage waste through the Waste Less, Recycle More program.”
According to Read, the state’s reliance on landfill levies and delay in finalising the 20-year waste strategy shows the NSW Government’s mind is not open to the economic potential that transitioning to a circular economy would deliver.
“There is nothing here that encourages industry to invest in new material and energy recovery facilities to divert recyclable and residual wastes from landfill that would substantially grow the state’s GDP, create more employment opportunities and greenhouse gas savings,” she said.
Read added that according to NSW Circular, waste generation in NSW is projected to grow from its current 21 million tonnes to over 31 million tonnes over the next 20 years.
“The circular economy is a major commercial opportunity for NSW. Modelling by the Centre for International Economics has estimated that even a five per cent improvement in resource recovery would add $1 billion to Australia’s GDP and $644 million to NSW’s GDP,” she said.
“There are three times as many jobs in recycling as there are in landfill, and if the NSW Government is focused on economic recovery post COVID it is obvious that growing the material and energy recovery industry will boost the economy as well as create jobs.”
Read said the budget also outlined an extension of the Waste Less, Recycle More program, which has not shifted recycling rates since 2016.
“This program has been extended for 2021-22, however it is clear that it has not achieved what it set out to do and that needs to be addressed,” she said.
“Landfill space is running out in NSW and the writing is on the wall.
“The NSW Government would be best placed to urgently refocus its waste management strategy by putting in place the economic and policy frameworks that fast track the growth of the material and energy recovery sector as NSW transitions to a circular economy.”
Read’s comment follow similar criticism from Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia CEO Gayle Sloan, who said the NSW Government and its EPA are out of step with other Australian governments and the WARR industry.
“This budget is disappointing as it sends the message that NSW remains closed for WARR business, instead of seizing the opportunity for our sector to play a key role in the economic recovery,” Sloan said.