A new waste management and resource recovery strategy developed by the Queensland Government will be underpinned by a new waste levy commencing on 1 July 2019. A review of existing waste regulations in Queensland triggered the change to a risk-based approach to managing waste in the State. The Waste Reduction and Recycling (Waste Levy) Amendment Act 2019 (Amending Act) introducing the levy, received royal assent on 21 February 2019 and will amend the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011.
The waste levy zone will cover 39 local government areas that house around 90% of Queensland’s population and will therefore affect most of the State’s businesses that dispose of waste.
Types of waste subject to the levy
The Amending Act provides that all waste that is delivered to a ‘levyable waste disposal site’ will be subject to the levy, unless it falls within one of the few exempt categories. The Amending Act defines a ‘levyable waste disposal site’ as any waste disposal site, whether under the ownership or control of the State, a local government or otherwise, but does not include a part of the waste disposal site that is a resource recovery area (where waste can be sorted and recyclables recovered without paying the levy).
Exempt waste will include categories such as waste produced from natural disasters or a serious local event, certain asbestos-contaminated waste, dredge spoil and clean earth. Applications may be made for exemptions and discounts in relation to waste that has been received as part of donations or litter and illegally dumped waste that is collected as part of an activity, such as Clean Up Australia Day.
If waste is generated in the levy zone or outside of Queensland, a levy will be payable on its disposal, regardless of whether this disposal occurs in a levy zone or a non-levy zone. Additionally, any waste generated in a non-levy zone that is disposed of in a levy zone will require payment of the levy.
Paying the levy
The levy will be paid by the operators of levyable waste disposal sites, with the costs expected to be passed along to the site users.
Proposed initial levy rates released by the Queensland Government are:
- $75 per tonne of general waste, municipal solid waste, commercial and industrial waste and construction and demolition waste
- $105 per tonne of regulated waste that is categorised as moderate risk
- $155 per tonne of regulated waste that is categorised as high risk.
The levy rates are to be increased by $5 for all classifications on 1 July each year.
Waste that falls into the regulated waste categories is commercial or industrial waste of a type set out under the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (Qld). The regulated categories include waste containing arsenic, lead, pesticides, sewage and oils among many others. If the waste contains a mix of classifications, the levy charged for the entirety of the waste will be calculated on the waste attracting the highest rate.
Everyone disposing of waste at levyable waste disposal sites must advise the site operator of the amount of each type of waste they plan to dispose of and whether the waste was generated inside or outside of the levy zone. Penalties of up to $39,165 may apply for failing to do so or for providing false or misleading information.
Preparing for the changes
The commencement of the waste levy in July this year will create noteworthy additional operational costs for businesses who regularly dispose of waste. Businesses that will be affected should begin reassessing their waste management policies and preparing for the impact these legislative changes may have.