Introduction

Changes have been introduced into Parliament, relating to waste in NSW. While those changes are primarily aimed at increasing the penalties on unlawful dumping, there is also a significant change proposed that removes the waste levy exemptions.  This has the potential to impact on the economics of the waste industry.

Background

On Wednesday 29 May 2013, the NSW Environment Minister announced that she would introduce some amendments to the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 in respect of waste. The Bill has now been tabled in Parliament.

The proposed amendments and their impact

The primary focus of the amendments is to increase certain waste related penalties, and introduce new offences, particularly in respect of repeat offenders. This includes custodial sentences, and the ability for the Land and Environment Court to impose a fine equivalent to the effective gains from unlawful dumping (in avoided landfill levies).

However, there is also a potentially very significant amendment proposed to section 88, being deletion of the words “…but it does not apply to a facility that the EPA determines is used solely for the purposes of re-using, recovering, recycling or processing waste other than liquid waste”. This may mean that the waste levy will extend to all licensed waste facilities, including recycling facilities, AWT facilities, sorting facilities and the like.

The explanatory note states that the deletion of the exemption is “…so that the operation of any such exemption can be dealt with in the regulations” The Second Reading speech states that the changes to the waste levy are intended to discourage illegal dumping. It also states that changes to the waste levy will mean that the levy is to be paid upfront, when waste is received at any licensed facility. Following this, there will be a rebate or reimbursement available for waste that is recycled. 

No draft regulations or guidance as to how this will be achieved have been published yet. Therefore, it is unclear how the rebate/reimbursement will operate, and what additional administrative and other requirements will be imposed on sorting, recycling and AWT facilities. Given this, the economic and practical impacts on the waste industry in NSW are as yet, unclear.

Next Steps

Until there are draft regulations, and any other necessary guidance, the full impact of these amendments on non-landfill waste facilities will be unclear. Until that time, there will be significant uncertainty in the waste industry, and for those with contracts for waste services.

In the meantime, we recommend that all organisations that may be impacted monitor the progress of the Bill, and any regulations and guidelines that are published.

Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any queries about the impact that these amendments may have.