Industry responds to QLD Energy from Waste policy

The Queensland Government has released its highly anticipated Energy from Waste (EfW) policy following a webinar with the state’s Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch.

Enoch hosted a ‘lunch with the Queensland Environment Minister’ via zoom last week due to social distancing restrictions, to announce the EfW policy and how it will play a key role within the waste and resource recovery system across the state.

The EfW policy aims to capture embodied energy from residual materials that would otherwise have been landfilled, as Queensland transitions towards a circular economy.

Enoch gave a candid update of the current state of play in Queensland, noted that the policy aligns with both the waste management hierarchy as well as Queensland’s strategic priorities, and provides industry with certainty on how EfW will be regulated and assessed in the state.

As well as establishing an EfW hierarchy to address the differing technologies available, the policy outlines seven outcomes to guide proponents on how environmental authority applications for EfW facilities will be assessed and regulated, detailing requirements that will need to be met to demonstrate operational performance of proposed facilities.

Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO, said QLD’s EfW policy is a “very sensible and well considered document”.

She said EfW draws on international best practice, resisting the temptation that WMRR have seen in other Australian jurisdictions to create poorly thought out interventions that impact confidence and investment.

“The release of the document is a positive step towards offering EfW proponents some much-needed certainty, offering clear pathways to EfW, and importantly, a clear expectation about community engagement and social license,” Sloan said.

“All these steps are pivotal in rebuilding the economy and creating local jobs in the post-COVID world that we are building.”

Mark Smith, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO, agrees that the EfW policy provides an important building block for the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector and importantly sets out expectations from government to market.

However, Smith said a key challenge for state and local government and the private sector, who are the largest funders of infrastructure in Queensland and Australia, will be how the changes and improvements to waste and recycling management is communicated to the Queensland community.

“Recent research from CSIRO tells us that in order for community to trust and accept upgrades to waste facilities or new facilities being establish, is their confidence in the industry and their confidence in the government bodies regulating the sector,” he said.

“WRIQ is committed to improving the sector’s public brand and wants to ensure our members are supported by government when they decide to make investments to support the Queensland economy.”

Smith said it’s really important that government understand and recognise their role in building community awareness around the “role our sector plays in maintaining the economy and maintaining our way of life”.

WRIQ has congratulated the Queensland Government for releasing the policy and the commitment to releasing further guidance at the end of the year.

Sloan said that WMRR also appreciates the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) strong engagement with the industry in the establishment of this policy.

“We look forward to the development of further detail on how industry can meet EfW requirements in Queensland, utilising what we know is international best practice, including the EU Waste Directives,” she said.

Smith said WRIQ will reach out to DES to also support the development process of the policy.

According to WMRR, during the webinar, Enoch also reassured attendees that resource recovery is at the forefront of many of the government’s decisions, acknowledging that the essential waste and resource recovery sector is a vital stakeholder and contributor to Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, particularly as the industry will be able to provide home grown manufacturing opportunities.

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Advice to QLD businesses following Gov policy changes

Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) has released advice following the state Government’s release of QLD’s Energy from Waste Policy and its decision to defer the landfill waste levy.

Mark Smith, WRIQ CEO said the QLD Government has had to make tough decisions in the wake of Covid19 and that’s included deferral of the landfill levy.

“Responding to this we’ve put advice together with the support of one of Australia’s leading law firms, Minter Ellison, so our members are supported to adapt to this recent announcement,” he said.

The association, in collaboration with Minter Ellison, has released a two page alert for its members following the state Government’s new developments that will impact landfill operators across QLD.

“I don’t want to see rogue operators exploiting the situation and one of the ways industry and government can reduce this is both of us playing a role in communicating about expectations and changes and that’s what we’ve done with this advice,” Mark said.

In its advice to WRIQ members, the alert states that the announcement of a six-month deferment to the waste levy increase that was set to begin on July 1 2020, may also impact on the entities who use landfill facilities, depending on how their payment arrangements with landfill operators are structured.

WRIQ advised members that the amounts for the waste levy are set out in Schedule 1 of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011 for the foreseeable financial years until 2022.

“The waste levy will therefore remain at $75 per tonne for general waste, $105 per tonne for category 2 regulated waste, and $155 per tonne for category 1 regulated waste, until 31 December 2020,” the alert to WRIQ members states.

It was initially proposed $5 per tonne increases across all categories of waste, effective 1 July in each financial year, however the effect of the Government’s proposed change will be to defer the increase for the 2020-21 financial year to commence on 1 January 2021.

WRIQ advises members to consider proposing a variation to the contract, or consider whether ‘change of law’ clauses apply.

WRIQ advice to members

One reason for landfill operators to review their contractual arrangements in light of the deferral is because of the requirement under section 72K of the WRR Act that in order to claim ‘bad debt credits’ back from the State, should your customers become insolvent in the future and not pay, the ‘service delivery charge’ excluding GST imposed on the insolvent customer must not have been more than the waste levy at the relevant time, the alert stated.

The association said members need to take necessary steps for a manual override for six month and any misrepresentations in standard documentation should be corrected when the deferral occurs.

In its advice to local governments, WRIQ said they will need to factor this in to any budgetary decisions made on the assumption of an increased levy, and ensure that any representations made about the amount of the levy in relevant materials provided to ratepayers, including on all websites are correct.

Smith said industry feedback is welcome and he is encouraging any business operating in Queensland’s waste and resource recovery sector to take part in its regulator survey.

“This information collected provides us an evidence base to encourage better alignment with government processes and commercial realities around a number of factors including proposed changes to landfill pricing the notification period given to businesses,” he said.

WRIQ has also received advice from the QLD Minister for Environment, Leeanne Enoch, and the association is taking steps to organise more detailed explanation of the policy to its members.

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WRIQ appoints new CEO

After more than 14 years at the helm, Rick Ralph will be handing the reigns as CEO of Queensland’s largest industry and business body representing the waste and recycling sector to newly appointed CEO Mark Smith.

Rick has made an enormous contribution to the sector nationally but in particular in Queensland where he founded WCRA (Qld) which evolved to WRIQ that many know today.

In his time as CEO, Rick’s delivered initiatives and programs that have strengthened the industry in Queensland and has  advocated for the many WRIQ members who are delivering essential services to every single Queensland business and household.

Stepping into the role of CEO will be former Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) Executive Officer Mark Smith.

Rick Ralph

In his time as Executive Officer of the VWMA, Mark raised the profile and membership base of the association creating new member services, training and events calendar while advocating for more effective regulation and engagement by the EPA and further investment into the sector by the Victorian Government.

Mr Smith said he was proud of the contribution he had made, including advocating for a number of policy measures included in the Recycling Victoria policy, but it was time for a new challenge.

“I’m really looking forward to supporting WRIQ members. As it is an election year in Queensland, our advocacy will be really important in shaping the state’s future in waste management and resource recovery,” Mr Smith said.

“I’m standing on the shoulder of a giant coming into the role and really excited to build on the strong foundations that have been created by Rick and the WRIQ Board.”

He added that it is no doubt a challenging time for WRIQ members, but they remain determined to deliver essential services to Queenslanders and those business that are still opening and operating.

As the transition to new CEO is currently underway, Mr Smith and outgoing CEO Rick Ralph both agreed that COVID-19 would not impact how WRIQ supports its members.

“We hear a lot of people talking about how this is unprecedented times – and this is most certainly true, but we can only get through this if we work together with government, business, community and elected representatives,” Mr Smith said.

“While there are a lot of unknowns, for our sector it doesn’t change the fact that we still need to go out and deliver services. We do this well and what I’ll be advocating to the Queensland Government will be for tangible outcomes that support our sector’s future growth”

Mr Smith said that although Rick was retiring from the role, he was confident Rick would remain a close ally for WRIQ.

WMR recently sat down with Rick to talk about his contribution to the sector you can read that article here.

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