In 2018 the Queensland Government announced their plan to improve waste management in Queensland, introducing ambitious targets in a bid to become a zero waste community which Council and other waste managers will be held accountable for at the grass-root level.
Targets set for 2050 include:
· 25% reduction in household waste;
· 90% waste is recovered and does not go to landfill; and
· 75% recycling rates across all waste types.
Underpinning these waste reforms, on 1 July 2019 the Queensland Government introduced a levy on waste received at all Queensland landfills. The purpose of the levy is to encourage recycling and resource recovery by penalising landfilling. The levy currently sits at $85 per tonne and will increase in rate with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase every 1 July for regional areas.
Council is currently subsidised for the costs associated with the waste levy when landfilling household waste (this includes waste collected via Council’s kerbside waste collection and self-haul of domestic waste to one of the Shire’s waste facilities).
Mayor Ramon Jayo informs residents that “Although the Queensland Government has currently committed to continue the arrangement of providing a waste levy rebate in relation to landfilling of domestic waste for another financial year, these payments will start to gradually reduce as the community is expected to have become more effective at diverting rubbish away from the red lidded bin and landfill. Eventually the payments will disappear altogether”.
At present, the Shire has very low levels of resource recovery. Out of all waste types collected at the Warrens Hill Landfill and Resource Recovery Centre over the 2021-2021 financial year, only 27% was recovered.
“Ratepayers may see further increases to their rate notice as a result of the Queensland Governments’ waste targets and associated levy. Residents are able to reduce this likelihood by reducing waste going to landfill and to recycle correctly. We still have a long way to go if we are to hit the State target of 90% diversion of waste from landfill by 2050”, said Mayor Jayo.
Council has initiated a review of multiple existing waste programs and services in a bid to identify areas where the community can be better supported or incentivised to reduce waste and improve recycling efforts.
Mayor Ramon Jayo advises that ‘We know that it is only a matter of time before the State Government’s cease reimbursing Council for the State Government waste levy. When this occurs, Council will be forced to pass this cost on to the community. The time has come to begin treating waste differently, so we improve our recycling practices and prepare for the cost of waste to landfill increasing dramatically in the near future.’
Two of the programs that are being impacted by this review are the existing Waste Disposal Voucher Scheme as well as the Rural Clean-Up Program.
The Waste Disposal Voucher Scheme currently allows each local household access to four virtual waste vouchers per financial year. Each of these vouchers allows for free disposal of up to 500kg of green or general waste brought to one of the Shire’s waste facilities. Over the 2020-2021 financial year this program cost ratepayers over $55,000 in waste disposal fees, which does not include the waste levy charge.
The Rural Clean-Up Program consists of placing skip bins within specific rural localities for the free use of community members to dispose of bulk waste. In 2021, total program costs were $30,393 in collection and disposal fees, equating to close to $597 per tonne of waste collected.
By restricting the provision of free waste services and adopting a user-pays model where the individual who generates the waste destined for landfill will be required to pay the associated costs in the form of gate fees, Council envisions that it will create a financial incentive for all ratepayers to sort their waste loads into what can be recycled, and increase the amount of waste we recover rather than carelessly mixing recyclable waste with non-recyclable waste, and simply dump the lot into the landfill.
Consequently, Council resolved at its General Meeting held on Tuesday 23 November 2021, that from Friday 1 July 2022, only green waste will be eligible for free disposal utilising one of these vouchers. Meaning, each local household will be entitled to dispose of up to four loads of green waste for free at the Warrens Hill Landfill and Resource Recovery Centre or the Halifax Transfer Station. A decision is still pending on the future of the Rural Clean-Up Program.
‘Addressing this issue now is the start of Council’s path towards the State’s targets for increased waste avoidance and improved resource recovery efforts. This will place Hinchinbrook in a better place to manage future impacts associated with the waste levy charges and improve waste management practices across the Shire’, stated Mayor Jayo.
Council recognises the financial impact that this change may have on some Hinchinbrook residents however, the impact can be significantly reduced by sorting recyclables prior to arriving at the waste facility.
Additionally, metal, e-waste, batteries, empty and clean drums, paper and cardboard, hard plastic containers, and glass can all be disposed of for free at Council’s waste disposal and recovery facilities.
Council is also looking at the opportunity of providing one or two ‘free dump days’ for eligible items to support the community in preparation for storm season. Council is also currently investigating the viability of making all domestic green waste disposal free in the future.
Take the opportunity to provide your feedback on how Council can ensure adequate waste services to the Hinchinbrook community while still promoting increased resource recovery efforts by responding to the current waste review survey by visiting Council’s website, Rural Clean Up Program page.
Note that waste vouchers can currently be used for the disposal of domestic general and green waste. After Friday 1 July 2022 however, waste vouchers will be for green waste only.