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Queensland waste levy under microscope

The Queensland government’s approach to waste levy administration is contributing to the state’s poor performance in waste and recycling, according to a report by Waste Recycling Industry Association, Queensland (WRIQ).

Queensland’s Waste Strategy proposes a 25 per cent reduction in household waste, no more than 10 per cent of waste sent to landfill and a recycling rate of 75 per cent by 2050. However, as of November 2021, the state is not on track to achieve the targets, according to the WRIQ report, Untangling Queensland’s Waste Levy Conundrum.

Mark Smith, WRIQ Chief Executive, says the organisation began a project last year to investigate waste levy revenue, waste levy spending, with a focus on grants (who gets grants, who does not, what materials are funded, what materials are not) and the State Government’s commitment on reinvesting 70 per cent of the levy into the waste and resource recovery sector.

He says the findings from that work are outlined in the report, with the intent of highlighting opportunities for Queensland’s future success.

“Most of the report’s recommendations are general in nature and do not assign responsibility to a single party because it isn’t up to just the State Government to fund this or fund that. Funding isn’t the fix even though that’s how some local councils are approaching this. It’s about a range of things, which we outline in our report from making sure the regulator is resourced, capable and empowered. To public engagement and education through to tackling environmental injustice issues created by poor planning for our state’s current and future needs,” Mark says.

“The Queensland Government’s current approach sees us lagging behind almost every jurisdiction in Australia on several fronts including community engagement and education regarding waste, litter and recycling; investment to improve waste and resource recovery services across Queensland; meeting landfill diversion and recycling targets and reinvestment of waste levy money back into sector improvements, including better regulation.”

Mark says it is important to note that the waste and recycling industry existed before the waste levy came into effect.

“WRIQ is not advocating for or against the waste levy but if Queensland has a waste levy it should be applied fairly and transparently. It currently is not, in fact most of the public aren’t aware of the waste levy,” he says.

Queensland waste levyA waste levy was first introduced in Queensland in December 2011 but was abandoned due to a change in government policy in July 2012. In July 2019 the levy was reintroduced to encourage the diversion of waste from landfill to preference reuse and recycling.

Landfill operators (local councils and private businesses) pay the waste levy to the state government based on the amount of waste disposed to landfill per trip.

Mark says that to deliver the best outcomes and long-term prosperity for Queensland, the state’s current resource recovery policy needs to adapt to meet and address the challenges and opportunities that the past few years have created.

“A long-term, future-focused approach requires that the correct foundations be created today, to deliver the best outcomes for Queensland communities for tomorrow,” he says. “This proposal has been written for the Queensland Government, related stakeholders, local councils and, most importantly, communities and businesses that are critical to our future success. It outlines a safer, sustainable, and more equitable path forward.”

WRIQ’s proposal outlines eight key elements to achieve this: levy integrity, improving resource recovery, engagement and communication, data and reporting, environmental justice and social licence, future focus and the workforce, safety and sustainability and innovation.

“Improving waste and recycling outcomes for Queensland is a shared responsibility which needs participation from the Queensland community and businesses,” Mark says.

“This requires state government, local governments and the broader waste and recycling sector to work collaboratively. WRIQ will promote and share this report with impacted stakeholders and advocate on the merits of the ideas and reforms proposed.”

He says WRIQ will begin consultation on core ideas that should be adopted and promoted with the Queensland stakeholders over the next few weeks and months and encourages readers to follow WRIQ’s LinkedIn and Twitter feeds which will be engaged in ongoing promotion of the report, its ideas and findings over the next few weeks.

To view the report visit: https://wriq.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Waste_Levy_Conundrum_Final.pdf

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