The Queensland Government has announced that a waste levy will apply to a defined "levy zone" from Quarter 1 2019. In support of the proposed waste levy, it has released a Directions Paper "Transforming Queensland's Recycling and Waste Industry" which is open for submissions until Friday 29 June 2018.

The Directions Paper has been released against the background of China's recent ban on the import of recyclable materials, and also with Queensland's single use plastic bags ban to be implemented from 1 July 2018, and the Container Deposit Scheme to commence in November 2018. The Directions Paper is part of the Government's response to the Lyons Report, and is designed to reinvigorate Queensland's waste management strategy which has as its aims:

  • industry investment and innovation;
  • new jobs;
  • no direct impact on Queensland households;
  • long-term environmental value; and
  • progress towards a circular economy.

Why does Queensland need a waste levy?

The Lyons Report found that Queensland is being used as a dumping ground for interstate waste. In FY 2017 it was reported that over 900,000 tonnes of waste was transported into Queensland, which was a 61% increase from the previous financial year. Queensland's waste recovery rate is also lower than most other states.

With the majority of Australian jurisdictions imposing a landfill levy, a waste levy provides a an economic disincentive to waste disposal by reflecting some of the external environmental costs of waste disposal and making waste avoidance, reduction and recycling more financially attractive than disposal to landfill.

Implementation of a waste levy will also align with Queensland's current waste initiatives such as beverage container refund schemes, plastic bags and litter reduction, and the assessment of waste and resource recovery infrastructure, and . will supplement Queensland's annual reporting under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011.

Didn't Queensland have a waste levy?

In 2011, Queensland implemented a waste levy that applied to certain types of waste deposited in facilities within a designated levy zone. That waste levy did not apply to municipal solid waste. The levy was $35 per tonne for construction and demolition waste, commercial and industrial waste, and contaminated soil. The levy was in effect from 1 December 2011. It ceased to apply on 1 July 2012.

Waste levy rates

The levy rate varies according to the type of waste, and has been set in view of the levy rates for other States. The proposed levy is broadly in line with the levies for Victoria and South Australia, and the rate is designed to provide a disincentive to transport interstate waste to Queensland.

The initial levy rates are:

  • Regulated waste: Category 1 – $150 per tonne
  • Regulated waste: Category 2 – $100 per tonne
  • General waste (Construction & Demolition Waste, Commercial & Industrial Waste, Municipal Solid Waste) – $70 per tonne

The rates would increase at $5 per year over the next four years, with a view to incentivising material recovery, recycling and improved waste disposal practices.

Where does the levy apply?

The levy will apply only to the "designated levy zone" which applies across 38 out of the 77 local government areas in Queensland, covering approximately 90% of the population. Waste that is generated in other states or in the levy zone that is taken into the non-levy zone for disposal will also attract the levy to avoid the non-levy zones becoming alternative dumping grounds.

Exemptions from the waste levy

Legislation will be required to implement the new waste levy system, and exemptions to the waste levy will be defined through that legislation. Expected exemptions include:

  • waste disposed of on the site where they are produced (eg. fly ash, waste rock from mining)
  • materials segregated for recovery at a landfill site.

It is expected that the following exemptions will also apply, in response to an applications process:

  • waste from declared natural disasters;
  • waster where disposal is required by regulation (eg. asbestos);
  • little and illegally dumped waste collected by a council government or community group; and
  • waste received by charities as part of donations.

What does the future for Queensland waste look like?

The ultimate objective is that Queensland moves towards a circular economy, where materials continue to circulate for as long as possible through reuse, recycling, remanufacturing, delivering products as services and sharing. As part of the objective of reducing disposal to landfill, the following targets are proposed:

  • 20% avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2030;
  • 10% avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2040;
  • zero avoidable waste disposed of to landfill by 2050.

These targets will be driven by both increased resource recovery and recycling, and decreased per capita generation.

The performance targets will be supported by exploring initiatives including landfill disposal bans on selected waste streams, product stewardship schemes, promotion of waste-to-energy schemes and participation in national approaches to waste issues.

Have your say

Submissions on the directions paper are due by 5pm on Friday 29 June 2018. Issues that should be considered in submissions include the implementation of the levy, administration of the levy, exemptions and the application of proceeds from the levy.