QLD state budget announced but no word on RMF

The Queensland government last week handed down its budget and while funding for localised waste and resource recovery measures has been forthcoming, there is still no mention of taking up the Commonwealth’s Recycling Modernisation Fund.

National Waste and Resource Industry Council (NWRIC) Queensland state affiliate WRIQ CEO Mark Smith provided some analysis of the Queensland state budget.

“$93.6 million has been provided over 4 years and $24.2 million per annum for the ongoing implementation of the Queensland Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy. This is a positive step however WRIQ will be looking for further detail around these announcements.”

Mr Smith said that according to the budget papers, revenue from the waste disposal levy is estimated to be $291 million in 2020–21 and forecast to grow by 8.9 per cent in 2021–22 and 5.3 per cent in 2022–23, reflecting expected growth in waste disposal as well as regulated levy rate increases.

“As a result, in this budget it appears a further $160 million is allocated for statutory annual payments to local governments in 2021–22 to ensure the waste levy will have no direct impact on households,” Mr Smith said.

The key State Development budget measure that is linked to the waste reduction and recycling industry is the new $1.84 billion Queensland Jobs Fund which was announced pre-budget. This Fund includes:

    • Hydrogen Industry Development Fund
    • The new $350 million Industry Partnership Program
    • Renewable Energy Fund
    • Made In Queensland
    • Manufacturing Hubs
    • Building Acceleration Fund
    • Resource Recovery Industry Development Fund
    • Backing Queensland Business Investment Fund

NWRIC CEO Rose Read said while state government support of Queensland’s waste and resource recovery sector was important, there was an enormous opportunity being missed while Queensland dragged the chain on accessing the Federal Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF).

“Queensland is the last state to action the RMF. The Commonwealth has put $190 million on the table for the states and industry to match to upgrade and expand glass, plastic and tyre recycling infrastructure but Queensland is simply not engaged.

“The timetable for implementing the waste export bans is already in play, with a ban on waste glass effective from January and mixed plastics coming from 1 July.

“The export waste bans have created an opportunity for Australia not only take responsibility for its own waste but to focus on creating markets for recovered materials and mandate the use of recycled content.

“Industry wants to be part of the resource recovery solution, but in Queensland, without participating in opportunities such as the RMF, the level of infrastructure required to sort, process and remanufacture materials will not be adequate and this means more materials heading to landfill,” said Ms Read.


Minister’s Product Stewardship Priority list (2021-22) released

Minister for Environment Sussan Ley has released the Minister’s Priority List for 2021-22 that itemises the products and materials most in need of a product stewardship approach.

The list, which now also recommends specific industry led actions and delivery timeframes, includes four of the six existing product classes – photovoltaic systems, electrical and electronic products, child car seats and plastic oil containers, plus two new product classes – clothing textiles and problematic and unnecessary single use plastics.

Batteries and microbeads have been removed from the list.

The Minister’s Priority List provides certainty and transparency to the community and industry about what is being considered for regulation under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020.

National Waste and Recycling Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read welcomed the addition of clothing textiles and problematic and uncessary plastics to the list but questioned the decision to remove batteries.

“It is great to see clothing textiles and problematic and uncessary plastics added to the list as they have low recovery rates, contaminate current household and business recycling systems and damage processing equipment.

“However, given Australia’s first battery recycling is not due for launch until early 2022, removing batteries from the List seems somewhat premature.

“The voluntary industry-led scheme, while having ACCC approval is not yet up and running, nor is it government accredited,” said Ms Read.

“More and more batteries are being placed in our waste and recycling streams, causing more and more fires, putting our workers at risk and damaging trucks and processing facilities.

“The waste and recycling sector needs to have confidence that this scheme will be operating by no later than 1 Januray 2022.

In releasing the list, Minister Ley singled out the solar industry, indicating they need to have an industry-led, nationwide scheme designed by June 2022.

“Solar panels have languished on the Government’s priority list for six years now. It is time for the industry to step up and address the issue of waste either stockpiling or ending up in landfill, and today I have given them a deadline of mid-2022 to do that,” Minister Ley said.

Photovoltaic systems (solar panels and accessories) have been on the Minister’s List since 2016-17. Read the Ministers media release regarding the solar industry here.


Hazardous Waste Bill

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has introduced a Bill into the House of Representatives that strengthens enforcement provisions of the hazardous waste export and import permitting regime.

The Bill introduces introduces a new penalty of up to five years in prison for importing hazardous waste without a permit, or not in accordance with a permit.

It also introduces new civil penalty provisions with maximum fines of $222,000. In addition, the Bill empowers the department to issue infringement notices and negotiate enforceable undertakings.

The Bill would also ensure Australia is aligned with an amendment to the Basel Convention on transboundary movements of hazardous waste, which deals with mixed plastic containing hazardous components.

National Waste and Recycling Council (NWRIC) CEO Rose Read welcomed the Bill’s intent.

“Stengthening the penalties regarding hazardous waste sends a clear message to those operators doing the wrong thing that their actions will not be tolerated,” Ms Read said.