Industry calls for a more targeted use of landfill levy revenue

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on all governments to support more targeted spending priorities for landfill levy revenue.

In June, NWRIC members ratified industry’s recommendations on how funds raised from Australia’s landfill levies could be spent more effectively. Landfill levies raise close to $1 billion per year across Australia.

Speaking on behalf of the Council, Chair Phil Richards explained; “landfill levy revenue should be allocated in a manner that best serves the community and ultimately supports improved recycling.”

A targeted approach

The Council believes levy revenue should not be collected through private landfills and then used to subsidise government owned waste and recycling businesses. “This practise undermines investor confidence in private enterprises, and over the long term, will erode private investment into new waste and recycling infrastructure and innovation,” Mr Richards said.

Instead, the Council is suggesting levy revenue be allocated in a way that will help to create a circular economy. Based on this principle, the Council believes the levy should be used to support;

  1. Uniform and comprehensive regulatory enforcement,
  2. Statewide waste management and recycling infrastructure planning,
  3. Creation of viable long term markets for recycled products, and
  4. Funding public waste and recycling education programs.

Where levy revenue is given out to support infrastructure, the Council believes the revenue should be allocated as loans, in a similar model to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). “Giving out levy revenue as low interest loans rather than grants will ensure oversight and the effective use of capital.”

Regulatory enforcement still needed

Despite the considerable progress which has been made in improving regulatory compliance, large waste volumes are still flowing to substandard or illegal operators.

“It is essential that high quality waste and recycling operations, which meet and exceed environmental and safety standards, are protected from competition from non-compliant activities,” said Council CEO Max Spedding. “Failure to prosecute substandard or illegal operators harms the reputation and professionalism of the industry, while undermining essential worker and public safety.”

While many substandard or illegal practises have been reported in the media recently, key examples include the dumping of close to nine million tyres in regional Victoria – or probes by both the Victorian and NSW police into scrap yards, which revealed criminal activity and resulted in all cash purchases being banned in scrap transactions. The Council believes more action is needed to close down non-compliant activities.

Improved planning and protection for waste assets

Encroachment by residential and commercial development has conflicted with the essential need for industry to safely transport, process and landfill waste materials.

“It is impossible to completely eliminate traffic movement, odour, dust and noise from waste and recycling facilities,” said Mr Spedding. “Sensitive residential and commercial businesses must be segregated from waste facilities by comprehensive State planning and regulatory oversight.”

“Industry would like to see both the EPAs and State Planning Departments align and co-operate, to mutually enforce rules on buffer protections for waste and recycling facilities.”

In regard to planning, industry recognise the recent high quality work undertaken by Sustainability Victoria, and believe that allocating levy revenue towards improved planning in other states will ensure investment in recycling will be encouraged.

Support for markets for recycled products

The Council supports the allocation of levy revenue for the creation of long term, sustainable markets for recycled products. This support could include the allocation of transport subsidies to return organics to agricultural land, support for the use of recycled construction materials and the introduction of new mandatory product stewardship programs for problem wastes.

Waste and recycling education

Finally, the Council supports expenditure of landfill levy revenue in a manner which enhances the public’s understanding of, and engagement with, waste and recycling services. Communication projects can expand beyond improving source separation for kerbside; into educating construction, agricultural and industrial markets about the value of recycled products.

“Effective public engagement to communicate the essential nature of waste and recycling services will benefit all in the industry,” Mr Richards said. “The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council has a vision to transition Australia to a circular economy, and we ask for public and government support.”