In 2016-17, 912,000 tonnes of waste were transported from other States for disposal in Queensland.[1] In response, the Queensland Government intends to introduce a levy on waste in early 2019.

Has the levy been passed by the Queensland Parliament?

Not yet. The Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (Qld) (Bill) was introduced to the Legislative Assembly on 6 September 2018.

A report is due by 22 October 2018.

When will the levy commence?

The Bill proposes that the levy commence on 4 March 2019.

What is the waste levy zone and where does it apply?

The waste levy applies to waste generated in or disposed of in the 38 local council areas designated by regulation as in the ‘waste levy zone’. The zone includes all of South-East Queensland and covers 90% of Queensland’s population.

The levy will be charged on waste produced in the non-levy zone if it is disposed in the levy zone. Any waste brought from interstate will be charged the levy, regardless of where it is disposed of in Queensland.

Who will pay the levy?

The levy will be paid by the operator of the waste disposal site. Presumably, operators will pass on the levy to disposers.

Ratepayers should not face any additional costs for household waste. The State government has promised to pay a 105% rebate to local councils for the cost of disposing of waste. However, the State government will withhold these payments if councils do not inform ratepayers of the rebate or provide false or misleading information about it.

Is construction waste subject to the levy?

The definition of “waste” includes “left over … from an industrial, commercial, domestic or other activity”. “Levyable waste” is defined as “waste, other than exempt waste, that is delivered to a levyable waste disposal site.”

Construction waste would likely be regarded as left over from a commercial activity, classifying it as waste. Except where construction waste is “exempt waste” (such as asbestos-contaminated waste and dredge spoil, which would be subject to other legislative disposal requirements, or clean earth), construction waste will be subject to the waste levy at the point of disposal.

What do disposers need to do?

Disposers must advise disposal site operators of:

  • the amount of each type of waste (including exempt waste); and
  • whether the waste was generated inside or outside the levy zone and the respective amounts.

Failing to disclose this information or knowingly providing misleading information may result in a fine of up to $39,165.

What is the levy rate?

The levy rate will vary depending on the kind of waste that is disposed. The rate will be set by regulation and will increase by $5 per year over the first four years. The draft regulation proposes the following rates:

Type of waste

Waste levy rate—2019

Waste levy rate—2020

Waste levy rate—2021

Waste levy rate—2022

Acid sulfate soil

$70 per tonne

$75 per tonne

$80 per tonne

$85 per tonne

Earth contaminated with a hazardous contaminant from land

$70 per tonne

$75 per tonne

$80 per tonne

$85 per tonne

Category 1 regulated waste, other than acid sulfate soil or earth contaminated with a hazardous contaminant

$150 per tonne

$155 per tonne

$160 per tonne

$165 per tonne

Category 2 regulated waste, other than acid sulfate soil or earth contaminated with a hazardous contaminant

$100 per tonne

$105 per tonne

$110 per tonne

$115 per tonne

Other levyable waste

$70 per tonne

$75 per tonne

$80 per tonne

$85 per tonne

The draft regulation defines Category 1 and Category 2 regulated waste as having the same meaning as under the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (Qld) (EPR). However, the EPR does not yet contain these definitions. We expect that these will be added in due course.

Where different types of waste are mixed, the disposer will be charged for all of the waste at the rate of the waste attracting the highest rate. Disposers must identify each type of waste, even if they attract the same levy rate.

Discounts for recycling activities

A person who conducts a recycling activity may apply for a 50% discount to be charged on recycling residential waste.

However, an application will only be successful if the person meets the "recycling efficiency threshold". For example, a paper and cardboard recycling operation must recover 65% of the materials to be eligible for the discount.

A person may still be eligible for the discount if they have a good reason for not meeting the threshold and introduce efficiency measures to improve their recovery rate.

Is any waste exempt from the levy?

The following categories of waste will be automatically exempt from the levy:

  • waste produced as a result of natural disasters;
  • asbestos-contaminated waste;
  • litter and illegally dumped waste collected by the State government and local councils;
  • dredge spoil; and
  • clean earth.

Some waste may be granted an exemption, including:

  • waste from for charitable recycling entities;
  • community events targeting waste reduction;
  • contaminated land;
  • waste necessary for the operation of a waste disposal site; and
  • biosecurity waste.