What’s going on in the Sunshine State?

QLD waste levy

Queensland has had a waste levy in place since 2019, but unlike other jurisdictions that have implemented a levy, the Sunshine State hasn’t seen the same progress in waste reduction and recycling. With the annual payments up for review and a government announcement expected before the end of the year, Waste Management Review talks with key industry stakeholders to understand their perspectives.

Mark Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) says Queensland was a late arrival in seeing the benefits of a levy, which might explain why the state is progressing slowly towards its waste reduction targets. But why is Queensland tracking backwards on some metrics?

“That is an important question that some people just don’t want to answer,” he says.

When the levy was introduced in Queensland the State Government promised there would be no impact on Queenslanders and made an advance payment to 43 local councils in the waste levy zone to cover the costs associated with disposing of household rubbish from kerbside collection into landfill. That rebate has been 105 per cent of the costs that councils incur, says Smith.

“A payment to councils which, when we look at the numbers, is incentivising landfilling, is a flawed approach that must be reviewed,” he says.

Rose Read, Chief Executive Officer National Waste and Recycling Industry Council, says the use of rebate payments counteracts the intent of the waste levy and effectively creates an incentive to direct more waste to landfill.

“The purpose of the levy is to discourage disposal to landfill and encourage positive behaviours and investment in resource recovery.

“The current rebate to council does completely the opposite, which means councils are hiding the true cost of waste generation from their residents and using the levy paid by businesses to subsidise poor household recycling practices.

“This is impacting how Queensland is performing when it comes to waste and recycling. According to the National Waste Report 2020, the Australian rate of resource recovery was 63 per cent. In Queensland the rate was just 45 per cent.

“The argument by LGAQ that there are not adequate markets or mature industries that can take the waste does not stand up to scrutiny. There are plenty of viable markets for recyclable materials currently still going to landfill, just look at the positive impacts the Container Refund Schemes (CRS) has had on increased recovery rates.

Read says “it’s vital that local councils are weaned off this subsidy from 1 July 2022 and that the levy funds are instead invested into programs that educate and incentivise the residents to recycle better, support the development of the secondary resources sector and help councils create local markets for recycled materials.”

In November, WRIQ released Untangling Queensland’s Waste Levy Conundrum, a proposal to create equitable solutions for Queensland’s waste levy.

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