Waste industry calls for more targeted use of landfill levy revenue

Thursday, 29 June, 2017

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) is calling on governments to support more targeted spending priorities for landfill levy revenue.

In June, NWRIC members ratified industry’s recommendations on how funds raised from Australia’s landfill levies could be spent more effectively. Council Chair Phil Richards said, “Landfill levy revenue should be allocated in a manner that best serves the community and ultimately supports improved recycling.”

The council believes levy revenue should not be collected through private businesses and then used to subsidise government-owned waste and recycling businesses. According to Richards, “This practice undermines investor confidence in private enterprises and, over the long term, will erode private investment into new waste and recycling infrastructure and innovation.”

Instead, the council is suggesting levy revenue be allocated in a way that will help to create a circular economy. Based on this principle, the council believes the levy should be used to support:

  • uniform and comprehensive regulatory enforcement;
  • state-wide waste management and recycling infrastructure planning;
  • the creation of viable long-term markets for recycled products;
  • funding public waste and recycling education programs.

Where levy revenue is given out to support infrastructure, the council believes the revenue should be allocated as loans, in a similar model to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Richards said, “Giving out levy revenue as low-interest loans rather than grants will ensure oversight and the effective use of capital.”

Meanwhile, the council found that large waste volumes are still flowing to substandard or illegal operators. While many substandard or illegal practices have been reported recently, including the dumping of close to nine million tyres in regional Victoria, the council believes more action is needed to close down non-compliant activities.

“It is essential that high-quality waste and recycling operations … are protected from competition from non-compliant activities,” said Council CEO Max Spedding. “Failure to prosecute substandard or illegal operators harms the reputation and professionalism of the industry, while undermining essential worker and public safety.”

The council has also found that encroachment by residential and commercial development has conflicted with the essential need for industry to safely transport, process and landfill waste materials. According to Spedding, “It is impossible to completely eliminate traffic movement, odour, dust and noise from waste and recycling facilities. Sensitive residential and commercial businesses must be segregated from waste facilities by comprehensive state planning and regulatory oversight.

“Industry would like to see both the EPAs and state planning departments align and cooperate, to mutually enforce rules on buffer protections for waste and recycling facilities.”

The council believes that allocating levy revenue towards improved planning will ensure investment in recycling will be encouraged.

The council also supports the allocation of levy revenue for the creation of long-term, sustainable markets for recycled products. This support could include the allocation of transport subsidies to return organics to agricultural land, support for the use of recycled construction materials and the introduction of new mandatory product stewardship programs for problem wastes.

Finally, the council supports expenditure of landfill levy revenue in a manner which enhances the public’s understanding of, and engagement with, waste and recycling services. Communication projects can expand beyond improving source separation for kerbside into educating construction, agricultural and industrial markets about the value of recycled products.

“Effective public engagement to communicate the essential nature of waste and recycling services will benefit all in the industry,” said Richards. “The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council has a vision to transition Australia to a circular economy, and we ask for public and government support.”

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