What is the Statewide waste levy for?
The waste levy is a fee placed on waste materials sent to landfill for disposal. The objective in applying this levy is to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, which will benefit the environment and also create economic benefits by keeping the resources that can be recovered from waste circulating in the productive economy.
The waste levy will also provide a revenue stream for strategic waste management in Tasmania. Money raised by the levy will be used to support business and jobs growth, resource recovery infrastructure and grants to promote alternatives to landfilling.
How does the waste levy work?
The levy will be set through legislation (the Waste and Resource Recovery Bill 2021 and related Regulations). The legislation will require a levy to be paid by landfill operators per tonne of waste that is received at the landfill. It is expected that landfill operators will pass on the cost of the levy to their customers. Many already charge a gate fee to cover their operational costs. The levy would be in addition to this.
Householders and businesses can reduce their landfill gate fees by being careful with what they do with their waste. By sorting rubbish and sending it to a recycling facility instead of the landfill, people can avoid paying the levy.
The legislation will allow landfill operators to claim a resource recovery rebate. This means they can reduce their levy liability by recovering waste at the landfill facility and taking it to a resource recovery facility. This will maximise the benefits of the levy by providing a financial incentive to divert waste from landfill for both the customer and the operator.
The levy administration and enforcement will be overseen by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
What are the benefits of the levy, in the long term?
Landfilling can have harmful environmental impacts such as groundwater pollution, soil contamination and methane generation (a harmful greenhouse gas). Landfills occupy valuable land that could otherwise be used productively or for conservation purposes, they attract vermin, and can be technically difficult to manage. Each landfill has a limited lifespan and when filled it can be difficult to find a suitable site to establish a new one.
A lot of wastes can be reused, recycled or diverted to organic composting or energy generation. Putting waste into landfill represents a loss of resources and goes against circular economy principles. The waste levy is predicted to reduce waste to landfill by 210,000 tonnes by 2030/31, which will extend the life of existing landfills and reduce the need for new facilities.
The levy will stimulate the growth and development of resource recovery and reprocessing businesses and operations throughout the State. According to the Tasmanian Waste Levy Impact Study 2020, the resource recovery sector creates 6.4 jobs per 10,000 tonnes of recovered waste, hence this levy could result in around 130 new Tasmanian jobs.
How much is the levy?
The Tasmanian Waste Levy Impact Study 2020 found that the optimal rate of the levy to reduce waste and increase resources recovered from landfill while having only a modest impact on households and businesses is as follows:
- An initial rate of $20 per tonne for the first 2 years
- After two years, the levy will increase to $40 per tonne
- After a further two years, the levy will increase to $60 per tonne
It is expected that the cost will be passed onto householders and businesses at the landfill gate and through Council rates.
For households, a levy of $20 per tonne has been projected to cost an additional $3.47 per capita per year (averaged over 10 years). As the levy increases through time, projections over a 10-year period indicate that the average cost to householders would be $7.67 per capita per year.
It should be noted that these are modelled averages for the whole State, and there are likely to be variations between localities.
When does the waste levy start?
It is intended to commence the levy component of the new system in July 2022, rather than November 2021 as initially proposed. This will be subject to the Bill being approved by Parliament and suitable Regulations being in place before that time.
When I go to a Waste Transfer Station, will I have to pay the levy?
Waste Transfer Station operators eventually have to pay to dispose of waste to landfill, so they are expected to pass on the levy cost to the public. It is expected that operators will attempt to divert as much waste as possible by collecting items such as glass, paper, plastic, e-waste, cardboard, batteries, clothing, polystyrene, construction materials, paint tins, furniture, and mattresses for recycling. This should reduce the cost to the public.
In addition, some parts of Tasmania already have a voluntary levy in place. As this will be replaced by the Statewide levy, the increase will not be as obvious in these places.
By reusing and recycling more, less waste will need to be disposed of and the impact of the levy will be reduced.
Will I need to pay the levy on materials that can be recycled?
No. The levy is only paid on waste which is disposed of in landfill. If you go to a landfill or waste transfer station with your recyclables, you probably won't need to pay for them to be recycled, unless the operator of the site charges some form of handling or operational fee.
Do other states have a waste levy?
All other states and the territories have waste levies and many have had them for some years.
Who is imposing and collecting the levy?
The Tasmanian Government is implementing the levy. It is required to be paid by landfill operators (including local councils that operate a landfill) to the EPA who will administer the levy and ensure compliance with all levy regulations.
The levy monies will be directed into a dedicated reinvestment fund established and managed in accordance with the proposed legislation by the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Board.
Has there been consideration for the effect of the levy on business and the community?
Yes. The authors of the Tasmanian Waste Levy Impact Study 2020 consulted with local government, State agencies, regional organisations, industry bodies, commercial waste generators, landfill operators and resource recovery operators about the impacts of a levy.
Feedback from the above study as well as feedback on the Government's 2019 draft Waste Action Plan showed strong support for the introduction of a Statewide waste levy for its environmental benefits and for the development opportunities it will stimulate for the resource recovery sector.
The Tasmanian Waste Levy Impact Study 2020 found that the Tasmanian community would be better off with a levy than without a levy, due to the broader reinvestment benefits to society that a waste levy can bring.
What will be the impact on competition in waste and other markets?
The Tasmanian Waste Levy Impact Study 2020 found that competition impacts will either be neutral or positive.
Landfill operators will be the most affected, and through time will see diminishing revenue from gate fees as the amount of disposal to landfill is reduced. However, most landfill facilities already diversify their business with some recovery operations, and those who introduce innovation by either diverting materials or recycling before the waste is buried in landfill will gain a business advantage.
The resource recovery sector stands to benefit greatly from increased demand and investment.
Using the levy to strategically foster improvements in the management of waste, infrastructure investment, research, and innovation will, in time, result in better quality recycled products and lower the cost of producing them. This will create greater demand in the market for recycled product.
Will the levy result in more illegal dumping?
There may be an increase in illegal dumping of rubbish, such as in bushland areas. To discourage illegal dumping the Government has recently increased fines for littering and introduced the Report Rubbish web application. The intention is to use some of the levy revenue to further support programs that tackle littering and illegal dumping (including education) around the State.
The Government will also continue to work with a range of partner organisations to promote anti-littering and anti-dumping messages.
Other Australian states have found that there can be an increase in illegal dumping when a levy is first introduced but this diminishes once people become accustomed to the levy. The Government will continue a collaborative approach with local government and other public land managers to address illegal dumping.
What is the current state and national context?
In 2019 Tasmania released targets in the draft Waste Action Plan, including reducing waste generated by 5% by 2025, a 40% recovery rate from all waste streams by 2025 and reducing organic waste to landfill by 25% by 2025. These are consistent with national initiatives, such as outlined in the National Waste Strategy 2018. They also reflect a community interest and concern about waste.
In recent years China and a number of south-east Asian countries have significantly reduced the importation of many waste materials. In 2020 COAG agreed to ban the export of unprocessed waste such as glass, plastic, tyres and paper/cardboard. To support the implementation of the ban, the Tasmanian and Australian Governments are jointly investing in improving recycling and reprocessing, creating jobs and reducing the impacts of landfilling. Programs such as the Recycling Modernisation Fund are supporting a significant investment in the processing capacity for waste plastic in Tasmania.
Where can I find out more information?
Further details on the Bill and the levy are available on the Waste and Resource Recovery Bill webpage.