A Queensland Waste Strategy Can Support Jobs And The Environment

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (the ‘Council’) supports the new waste strategy announced by the Palaszczuk Government, but cautions that a potential landfill levy must create jobs and investment for Queenslanders.

Together with the Waste Recycling Industry Association of Queensland (WRIQ) – the Council welcomes the March 20 announcement by the Palaszczuk Government for a re-invigorated waste strategy for Queensland.

One important choice being negotiated as part of the new waste strategy is a potential landfill levy for the State. If a levy is implemented, the NWRIC supports the recommendation of the Honourable Peter Lyons QC – that a levy must apply to all waste generated in the State – not just commercial waste. This recommendation was also echoed by Queensland Treasury in its Interim Report – Economic Opportunities for Queensland’s waste industry.

If implemented, the Council believes a waste levy must be applied over the largest area possible in order to prevent unnecessary waste transport – or be applied based on where waste is generated. It must not be set at a rate or structured in a way which makes recycling less viable. For example, where recyclate such as scrap metal is being exported, the cost of disposing of shredder floc must not make Australia’s exports less competitive.

The imposition of a landfill levy could also generate funds which can be reinvested into infrastructure planning, education, enforcement of standards and grants for innovation and research. Where money is given for infrastructure investment, it should be distributed via low interest loans and be equally available to all industry players.

The NWRIC expects the introduction of a landfill levy in SE Queensland will stop the unnecessary interstate transport of inert waste, with as much as one million tonnes estimated to be flowing out of NSW in SE Queensland in the last year. NSW must also take responsibility for this problem.

One solution to this problem is for NSW to bring into force its new ‘Minimum Standards for Managing Construction and Demolition Waste’, as soon as possible. This standard contains important initiatives designed to stem the flow of interstate waste and promote the development of new recycling infrastructure.

If implemented, two important policy programs must also accompany a universal and fair landfill levy. Without these programs, improvements in resource recovery will not be possible. Firstly, Queensland must provide ‘resource recovery precincts’ for waste and recycling infrastructure which are protected from residential and commercial encroachment.

Secondly, States must empower regulators to effectively enforce standards equally across the industry. The private sector will not invest into recycling when they can be commercially undermined by those who do not obey the law or submit to regulatory standards.  

“Effective planning for waste management and recycling infrastructure will ensure the public is not adversely affected by these essential services – while landfill levy revenue could be used to fund new and ongoing enforcement initiatives,” said Mr Phil Richards, Chairman of the NWRIC.

Council members commit to the highest social, environmental and economic standards for waste management and recycling. They stand ready to assist the Palaszczuk Government with its welcome plan to improve resource recovery and generate jobs for Queenslanders.