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waste management

$60.52, South Australia $57 and Western

in 2013, there was an immediate spike in

Australia $55.

recycling rates. But 18 months later, after the

Queensland, on the other hand, has no

removal of the levy, recycling rates crashed

levy and total landfill costs in SE Queensland

by 15% overnight and have not moved since.

are as low as $30/t, due to the removal of

In the same period NSW has achieved a 16%

the levy (Figure 2), strong competition and

growth in recycling (Figure 3).

an overabundance of landfill void space.

We are still a long way from achieving

The effect of SE Queensland’s unsus-

each state government’s recycling targets.

tainably low landfill price has been 477,000

Further intervention via levies or other

tonnes of waste (2014) and 398,000 (2015)

instruments, such as bans, grants and

travelling (by road and rail) from NSW and

regulation, is required.

Victoria to Queensland. The NSW Govern-

One of the main frustrations of the waste

ment needed to introduce the ‘proximity

sector is that plenty of new recycling/recov-

rule’ to try to slow the flow of waste to

ery technology is available, and the sector

cheap Queensland landfills.

has the appetite for capital investment,

Not only did the Queensland policy set-

but the main barrier remains government

tings attract 15,000 heavy truck movements

willingness to shift market economics. Only

onto the Pacific Highway, but NSW recyclers

where recycling is commercially viable will

lost the opportunity to recover materials

companies invest.

from that stream. It was and remains a significant unintended consequence of the

Household waste

removal of the $35/t levy by the (previous)

In the household sector, consumption con-

Queensland Government.

tinues to grow with the economy. The major

It is important for all waste generators

trends in domestic waste treatment are:

to understand that the levy is avoidable. It

• The average garbage bin contains 60%

is only paid on waste actually landfilled. In

organic material waste. The bulk is

the economic or policy conditions to achieve

other words, if you don’t want to pay the

food (40%) and garden waste (20%).

them. For recycling to work it must be

levy, then recycle.

The introduction of food/garden organic

commercially viable — whether for a private business, council or other generator.

bins in many council areas will go a

Fix the economics of recycling

long way to achieving the targets for

To put it another way, waste is like a

All states with compulsory levies hypoth-

river — it flows downhill to the cheapest

ecate some proportion of the raised funds

• New technologies in composting and

price. For most materials, the cheapest

to support recycling (to lower the cost of

anaerobic digestion will accelerate or-

price is almost always landfill. Continuing

that channel). Levies drive recycling by

ganics diversion.

the river analogy, diverting it to recycling

increasing the opportunity cost of landfill

• Almost one-third of all recyclable items

requires a ‘weir’ (a price barrier on landfill),

and providing funds for grants for recycling.

are placed in the garbage bin and end

so that the river banks up and then flows

Taking NSW as an example, in 2013 the

up in landfill. Education and enforcement

into a different, in this case a lower, price

government introduced the $465.7 million

channel (relatively cheaper recycling).

‘Waste Less, Recycle More’ four-year in-

• Approximately 17% of households fill their

frastructure and recycling services grants

recycling bin to capacity each fortnight.

program. This provides real financial support

These households need more recycling

Most states have recognised this reality and

for new resource recovery businesses and

volume usually via a 360 L recycling bin.

introduced landfill levies to drive recycling

investment.

Levies

the household sector.

are the best solutions.

• Many councils are also contracting al-

(except Queensland and NT; NT has only

Testimony to the power of price, when

ternative waste technologies (AWT) to

1% of Australia’s waste). NSW charges a

the Queensland Government introduced its

sort through the garbage bin, to recover

levy of $133.10/t of waste (metro), Victoria

$35/t waste levy (on commercial waste only)

recyclables and convert the organic com-

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Sustainability Matters Jun/Jul 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Jun/Jul 2016  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...