Shock SA waste levy increase – timing and purpose questionable

The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), the national peak body for all stakeholders in the waste and resource recovery industry, has expressed its disappointment at the timing of the recent announcement by the Minister of a new 1 January 2020 landfill levy increase. The complete lack of consultation or forewarning meant that industry and the community are not financially prepared for such a significant rise.

WMRR absolutely supports the positive role that landfill levies play in an integrated waste management and resource recovery system however, a landfill levy can only be one part of a broader, integrated system which must include strong policy and regulatory support, and enough forward planning to enable certainty for all.

“WMRR has written to the South Australian Environment Minister to express concern and distress over what appears to be no more than an uninformed cash grab.” WMRR CEO, Ms Gayle Sloan, said.

“The increase in levy, without the requisite policy support, can lead to perverse outcomes including illegal dumping and/or the unnecessary interstate transport of waste. It also places significant strain on existing South Australian projects that were unable to plan and prepare for such an unknown increase, potentially impacting broader investment in SA.

“SA has undergone significant construction work over recent years and while almost 80% of this waste is recovered and recycled, there is a portion that at this time is not being recovered. A six-month notice period from the Government that the levy will increase by 40% is a significant impost on construction projects that take years to plan and deliver, particularly if contracts have already commenced.

“Such changes need to be planned and communicated in order to prevent disruption to businesses in SA, otherwise jobs outside our industry will also be affected,” Ms Sloan said.

Waste management and resource recovery (WARR) affect everyone in the community, from small businesses that dispose of their trade waste, to hospitals with medical waste, and to schools with food waste. A significant change like this needs time and planning; it is not possible to create markets in six months when industry has been working tirelessly on solutions for years. 

“The Minister needs to sit down now with industry to set a timetable to remove impediments to market development in SA, such as removing the regulatory restrictions that impede the introduction of weekly food and garden organics collections, implementing a levy that supports recyclers and remanufacturers, and schedules the levy increase so we do not see a rise in unnecessary waste transportation or illegal dumping.

“WMRR is urging the Government to look to other jurisdictions, which heeded industry’s advice around timing and investment of their levies, hypothecate the levy back to industry using procurement, and like other States, commit a significant portion of levy funds to initiatives that will drive remanufacturing,” Ms Sloan said, adding that SA should develop a five-year outlook for the levy in order to provide much-needed certainty to industry and local government, allowing them to push through with their planning, infrastructure investments, and budgets.

WMRR is also calling on the SA Government to remain a leader in waste management and resource recovery policy by accelerating important policy initiatives such as the expansion of the Container Deposit Legislation scheme, and leading the way in procuring recycled content and establishing specifications that mandate recycled content for Government procurement.

WMRR’s letter, including a request for an urgent meeting, to Minister for Environment and Water, the Hon David Speirs, can be found here  (‘Budget Announcements in Relation to the South Australian (SA) Waste and Resource Recovery Sector’).