Spotlight on NSW waste levy
The NSW Auditor-General’s report on the effectiveness of the state’s waste levy and grants for waste infrastructure has put a spotlight on the need for an independent public review of the current state levy in parallel with the development of the 20 Year Waste Strategy, according to the National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC).
NWRIC CEO Rose Read said while the Auditor-General’s report raised a number of issues concerning waste levy regulations in NSW, NWRIC has long been calling for changes that would see better use of waste levies to improve recycling and environmental protection outcomes.
Last year NWRIC released a white paper reviewing state based waste and landfill levies across Australia with an understanding that levy regulations implemented in a nationally coordinated manner is key to advancing Australia towards a circular economy.
“State waste and landfill levies are an important regulatory tool to drive greater resource recovery and associated environmental, economic and social benefits.
“The NWRIC review identified major inconsistencies between states in how levies were priced, discounted, waived, administered and invested and made a series of recommendations to address these issues,” said Ms Read.
The recommendations included national consistency in pricing to prevent movement of waste to interstate landfills and provision of levy rebates on residuals from best practice recyclers to enable recovered materials to remain competitive in local and global markets.
NWRIC also recommended the alignment of administration between states, as well as greater transparency and annual reporting on levies collected, where all funds are spent, and outcomes achieved was also recommended.
Since the report was released, good progress has been made in harmonising levy prices between states which is having the desired impact of slowing the movement of waste across state borders to avoid landfill levies.
However, Ms Read said that a key concern was the proportion of levies being invested back into waste and recycling initiatives and how effective these investments were.
“In 2018-19 an estimated $772 million was raised from the waste levy in NSW. Of this only $84.3 million (11.5%) was reinvested into the waste and recycling sector via the NSW Government’s Waste Less, Recycle More Initiative. No wonder recycling rates have not shifted since 2016.
“Similarly, in 2019-20 NSW raised around $750 million but only invested an estimated $154 million or just under 20% back into waste and recycling initiatives. Where has the other $595 million been spent?
“The lack of information available in the NSW Government budget papers on how the balance of the waste levy raised in 2018-19 of $643m (88.4%) and $595m (80%) in 2019-20 was allocated, creates real issues around transparency and accountability.”
NWRIC has been calling on all state and territory governments to be more transparent and accountable for the total amount of levies collected by each jurisdiction by:
- setting up a separate Levy Trust Account (similar to Victoria’s MILL Trust Account) where all levies are retained
- guaranteeing a minimum percentage of levies (suggested 50%) to be spent annually on activities to implement the jurisdiction’s waste avoidance and resource recovery strategies, resource recovery and remanufacturing industry development plans, market development initiatives and infrastructure plans; and
- reporting annually on the total amount of levy funds collected and spent (including non-waste and recycling related expenditure) and outcomes achieved.
Ms Read said that with NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean acknowledging last week that NSW will not meet its 2021 landfill target of diverting 75% of waste from landfill and that landfill is nearing capacity, waste levy reform is vital.
“Waste levies play a vital role in enabling resource recovery, how they are charged and reinvested is critical to NSW and Australia achieving 80% resource recovery by 2030.” Ms Read said.
Recycling and Waste Reduction Bill sitting in the Senate
The Bill is currently being debated in the Senate, a copy of yesterday’s debate is available here (pp 42-49). Following further discussions between the Greens and Labor, the Greens will be proposing an additional amendment to establish a mandatory product stewardship scheme for packaging and plastics, which includes legislating the existing APCO packaging and plastics targets and requirements for packaging and plastics scheme products, which NWRIC supports. For details of the amendment click here.
Debate on the Bill will continue in the Senate next week. If the Senate and House of Representatives do not finalise the Bill by next Thursday (10th December), debate of the Bill be deferred to February 2021. This will delay the introduction of the waste glass export ban scheduled proposed for 1 January 2021.
WRIQ future leaders
Future Leaders is WRIQ’s program that provides an important forum for junior, middle tier and senior professionals to network and engage.
The program has undergone a review and is now ready more than ever to provide business with the opportunity to strengthen relationships with local communities, deliver learning and development opportunities for an organisation’s junior talent, and also learn more on the key factors that are impacting the future workforce.