WRIQ encourages participants to take part in regulator survey

Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) – Queensland’s peak body representing businesses that deliver waste and resource recovery services to Queensland – is calling on anyone working in the industry to take part in its biennial regulator survey.

According to Mark Smith, WRIQ CEO, the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector provides world class infrastructure and services in the areas of waste, processing, recycling and disposal.

“It’s important that businesses working in our sector provide feedback to improve how the sector is regulated, especially coming into a state election in October and a period of economic stimulus, from what I expect to be all levels of government in Australia,” Smith said.

Recent data sets from the Queensland Government show Queensland generates 10.9 million tonnes of waste across households, commercial, industrial, construction, hazardous and liquid materials each year.

The Queensland waste and resource recovery employs over 12,000 Queenslanders and indirectly supports over 1500 Queensland businesses.

“It is an essential component of the Queensland economy,” Smith said.

He added that as the sector’s significance and role in society is evolving, it’s important to ensure WRIQ is driving that evolution in a positive direction.

“We effectively link to every key aspect of life, from hospitals, the education sector, mining, tourism, retail, hospitality, as well as households,” Smith said.

He explains that government data sets show the sector is now managing almost one million more tonnes of waste than what was recorded in a WRIQ study two years ago.

“What this demonstrates is the direct link between our growth and the populations we service,” Smith said.

“If we are to grow and develop successfully, we need to make sure the regulations that govern our sector and provide confidence to government and the community are fit for purpose.

“And this survey provides the Queensland industry with an opportunity to contribute their own experience to drive improvements”

The survey is open until 19 June, to partake click here.

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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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Frontline support: Ace Waste

Waste Management Review speaks with Queensland Health operators and suppliers about managing medical waste in the wake of COVID-19.

As governments, working in conjunction with medical and scientific experts, continue to evaluate the transmissibility and severity of COVID-19, Australia’s National Biohazard Waste Industry Committee is suggesting a degree of precaution.

While there is no evidence as of yet that direct, unprotected human contact during the handling of healthcare waste has resulted in COVID-19 infections, medical knowledge is evolving with each passing week based on epidemiological advice.

The committee therefore suggests medical staff responsible for the management of increased, and potentially more hazardous, clinical waste volumes introduce additional safety measures.

To respond to the COVID-19 situation, Logan Hospital, a major hospital in one of the fastest growing regions in Queensland, has set up a specialised Fever Clinic to test patients suspected to have COVID-19.

The clinic is located in a separate concreted alcove adjacent to he hospital’s Emergency Department to protect staff, visitors and other patients, and can only be accessed with consent from triage nurses after an outdoor consultation.

In addition to setting up the new clinic, Wayne Hebblewhite, Logan Hospital Environmental Services Manager, says the hospital is adapting its waste management processes.

“The main change is that we’ve had to double bag all our clinical waste, as well as labelling and locking or zip tying all our clinical waste bins. It’s a change in processes,” he says.

These changes are in line with the National Biohazard Waste Industry committee’s COVID-19 clinical waste guidance, which urges healthcare workers to implement double bagging of waste from COVID-19 confirmed patients.

“By placing contaminated waste into a primary clinical waste bag and tying this bag up prior to disposal in the lined mobile garbage bins – the bag lining the mobile garbage bin must also be tied up – a significant increase in protection can be achieved,” the committee states.

To manage these changes, in addition to heightened levels of waste generation, Wayne has been working closely with Logan Hospital’s clinical and related waste management provider Ace Waste.

“From day one, they sent out all the literature we needed to follow their instructions and gave us clear guidelines on how to manage potentially COVID-19 contaminated waste,” Wayne says.

He adds that Logan Hospital’s Ace Waste Key Account Manager, Ben Huxley, came to the hospital to discuss process changes and walk the Logan team through the process. Wayne says he’s been very supportive.

“We needed additional bins and they were provided the following day,” Wayne says.

“We also required foot pedals for bins in our clinical waste areas to minimise human contact, and Ace Waste were able to provide those to us as well.”

According to Wayne, Ace Waste’s level of service has been consistent throughout the long-standing relationship.

“We’ve always found Ace Waste to be 100 percent professional. Ben is in contact at least once a month to discuss any sorts of issues we have. Nothing is too much trouble, if they can help us, they will,” he says.

David Brown, Wide Bay Hospital & Health Services Region Operational & Support Services Manager, expresses similar sentiments.

“We’ve been working with Ace Waste for 12 months, and in those 12 months we’ve had a seamless transfer from our previous contractor to Ace Waste,” he says.

“We’ve had no issues whatsoever, and to this date, I’ve had zero complaints from any of our facilities about the clinical waste service Ace Waste provides.”

Servicing more than 214,000 people across an area of 37,000 square kilometres, David’s operations cover the Bundaberg, Fraser Coast and North Burnett regions, as well as parts of Gladstone.

“We’ve seen an increase in our clinical waste product, with more kilograms being created, and as a by-product of that, we’ve had to increase the storage capacity of our bins, which Ace Waste helped facilitate,” he says.

Queensland Health’s recently released COVID-19 waste management recommendations stipulate that all staff should be trained in the correct procedures for waste handling.

To support this effort, Ace Waste have provided Wide Bay with extensive educational material that breaks down waste segregation in a simple and consistent manner.

“The material covers: what is clinical waste and what goes in which bin. It’s been very handy having that at this point in time with COVID-19 happening,” David says.

As part of its response to COVID-19, Queensland Health is supporting the internal expansion of Intensive Care and Emergency Department capacity.

According to Ben Huxley, Ace Waste Key Account Manager, Ace Waste is working to support their clients through this expansion by developing bespoke procedures and providing information on safe handling, transportation and waste receiving requirements.

“Since early March, there have been a considerable number of Fever Clinics established throughout our service area, both within hospital campuses and as stand-alone operations,” Ben says.

“An ongoing challenge faced by Ace Waste in supporting these services has been identifying and adapting to the rapidly evolving demands and service delivery platforms.”

Using their intimate knowledge of healthcare industry needs, systems and compliance, Ben says Ace Waste have been able to assist in process development and provide appropriate equipment requirements for each facility it services.

“Ace Waste is also providing expanded waste collection frequencies and facilitating additional servicing demands to ensure the focus of our healthcare professionals remains on providing the highest level of care to our community,” he says.

Ben adds that Ace Waste understands that future changes are likely to occur and is planning for a ‘worst case scenario’.

“Ace Waste is working on further expansion to accommodate future increased demand, and we are well positioned to service the Queensland community should the need arise,” he says.

“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, and it’s now more important than ever to support our valued clients in the medical and healthcare sector.”

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Position Partners expands QLD footprint to support regional customers

To provide increased support for customers and projects throughout Queensland, intelligent positioning solutions provider Position Partners has expanded its geographic reach throughout the state.

According to Position Partners Queensland Regional Manager Harry Katsanevas, employees based in Townsville, Chinchilla and Mackay are on-hand to support customers with technical advice and installations.

“We are pleased to announce these changes to give customers throughout the state local support,” he said.

Position Partners offers sales, rental, service and training across its range of civil machine control, GPS and surveying technology and high precision machine guidance systems.

The company’s Carlson LandfillGrade machine guidance system, for example, aims to assist landfill site operators maximise the void space of their landfill site through optimised compaction and increased density. 

“Our Queensland team includes some of our most experienced and capable people across the whole company, with extensive knowledge not only of the technology, but also our customers and the work they do,” Mr Katsanevas said.

“As the leader for our Queensland region I have one focus, and that is ensuring every aspect of our business is channelled towards our customers and doing everything possible to keep them working as productively as possible.”

With dedicated teams for civil construction, waste management and geospatial customers, Mr Katsanevas said Queensland employees bring industry-focused expertise, while working collaboratively across the business to meet the needs of customers.

“Our award-winning remote service platform Tokara is one example of a technology that’s been built by our team from the ground up and works across all industries we serve,” he said.

“Our service centres can repair and calibrate everything from a laser level through to survey drones, machine control systems and total stations. We also have applications specialists in areas such as on-board weighing, mass haul scheduling and more that can be called on across all market segments as required.”

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Temporary buffer zone set to become permanent in Ipswich

Ipswich City Council’s temporary local planning instrument (TLPI) is set to be permanently incorporated into council’s forthcoming planning scheme.

Due to expire next week, the Queensland Government has extended the TLPI for a further two years, during which time Ipswich City Council is expected to have a new planning scheme in place.

State Planning Minister Cameron Dick said extending the “waste protection” planning tool would provide certainty to the development industry and wider Ipswich community.

“The Queensland Government will work closely with the new Ipswich City Council to have the provisions incorporated into its updated planning scheme. This will give permanent effect to the waste protections we’ve put in place,” he said.

In 2018, the state government exercised its legislative powers to mandate a 750-metre buffer zone between existing, approved or planned residential areas and new and expanded waste facilities including landfill.

The decision came in the wake of an Austin BMI landfill proposal and Opposition parliamentary motion that the state government “call in” the application.

The proposal, which was met with some community opposition, would have seen a former disused coal mine at New Chum converted into a new landfill and waste transfer station.

According to Bundamba Member Elect Lance McCallum, extending the TLPI while council finalises its new planning scheme will ensure elements of council’s current planning scheme relating to waste activities remain suspended.

“The existing TLPIs are effective, so it’s vital we continue to regulate what can and cannot occur in these areas,” he said.

“I know how important the issue of waste management is to our community, which is why I got straight onto the Planning Minister this week to ensure existing protections were extended.”

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QLD opens consultation on single-use plastics ban legislation

Queensland is taking the next step in removing single-use plastics from the environment, opening consultation on a state-wide ban that will initially focus on straws, drink stirrers, cutlery and plates.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said single-use plastic was an increasing problem, damaging the state’s environment and marine life.

“It’s time to decide the future of single-use plastics in Queensland. Plastic pollution in our environment affects every aspect of our lives – from the water we drink and the food we consume, to the plants, animals and outdoor places we all love and enjoy,” she said.

“We are looking to limit and, where necessary, ban the supply of most single-use plastic products starting with straws, stirrers, plates, cutlery and cups.”

Ms Enoch said the state government’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, released in 2019, committed to introducing enabling legislation in 2020, subject to consultation, to ban the supply of specific plastic products.

“In the future we’ll also consider other forms of single-use items such as coffee cups, heavyweight plastic shopping bags and polystyrene containers, but right now we’re focused on straws, stirrers, plates and cutlery,” she said.

According to Ms Enoch, the state government wants to hear as many perspectives as possible. She added that the needs of people with disability and the age care sector would be taken into account.

“Over 75 per cent of rubbish that is removed from Australian beaches is made of plastic. Our government has already taken steps to reduce plastic with the ban on single-use plastics bags and the introduction of Containers for Change,” she said.

“Those initiatives have seen hundreds of millions of individual plastic products kept from entering the environment, and now we’re looking ahead. We want to hear from Queenslanders as we take this next step.”

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QLD councils receive $5M to fight illegal dumping

To reduce illegal dumping in known hotspots, the Queensland Government is allocating $5 million to local councils to employ new officers and increase surveillance.

According to Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, illegal dumping costs Queensland communities millions of dollars annually.

“The state government is currently fighting a war on waste, and we are ensuring that councils have the support they need to tackle this issue, to protect the environment and create local jobs,” Ms Enoch said.

The funding follows a successful local government illegal dumping pilot partnership program in 2019.

“Thanks to the success of this pilot, we are now expanding the program across Queensland, with more than $3.6 million going to 29 Queensland councils to fund a total 31 new dedicated illegal dumping field officer positions,” Ms Enoch said.

“This funding will help local councils to employ additional illegal dumping officers, hold target programs, boost intelligence and enhance reporting on illegal dumping activities.”

Additionally, the state government will provide $1.3 million to 32 councils through a dumping hotspot program, which is designed to support regional programs tackling illegal dumping at a local level.

“By working together, we can send a strong message that illegal dumping will not be tolerated, and it’s up to all Queenslander’s to do their part to keep our state clean,” Ms Enoch said.

Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Greg Hallam welcomed the additional funding.

“The initial pilot program has already had early success for the four councils involved. The Local Government Association of Queensland welcomes its expansion to additional councils across the state,” Mr Hallam said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the government on measures to help ease the burden of illegal dumping on Queensland communities.”

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QLD proposes local government waste reform

The Queensland Government is reviewing waste regulations after a Queensland Treasury Corporation review highlighted anti-competition concerns and a lack of regulatory harmonisation.

The state government’s Local Government Waste Management Reforms Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) is now open for public comment.

“Local government stakeholders have raised concerns about their ability to administer waste management in the absence of a state level regulatory framework for the administration of waste management, and the need for all councils to develop local laws for waste administration,” the RIS reads.

“Some stakeholders expressed the view that some local governments are acting in an anticompetitive manner while implementing local government waste management provisions.”

The RIS examines two regulatory mechanisms, section seven of the Waste Reduction and Recycling Regulation 2011, and chapter 5A of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008.

According to the RIS, both sections provide a regulatory framework for local governments to administer waste management activities within a local government area.

Section seven allows local governments to designate areas for general and green waste collection, and to determine the frequency of those collections. Chapter 5A gives local governments the ability to impose obligations and requirements on premises outside designated areas.

The RIS suggests that when paired with powers granted under the Local Government Act 2009, section seven and chapter 5A give local governments the ability to stifle competition.

“The Local Government Act 2009 provides for local governments to make local laws, including anti-competitive laws, where the benefit to the community is considered to outweigh the cost,” the RIS reads.

Alternatively, the RIS highlights local government concerns that without these powers, commercial operators will only collect from profitable segments of the market, thereby undermining the economies of scale that come from mandating all services.

The RIS proposes two options: no change to current regulations, and amendments that will retain local government’s ability to mandate domestic waste collection, but only allow local governments to designate areas for council commercial waste collection when strict criteria are met.

The Local Government Association Queensland is supporting the retention of present regulations, suggesting changes will lead to a clear cost shift to local communities for the sole benefit of the private sector.

Additionally, the association suggests changes could reduce service certainty, reduce the ability to control and regulate collection activities and impact contract arrangements and negotiations.

Submissions close 31 February.

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