What everyone should know about landfill levies

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September 18, 2018

Tags: Landfill

Next year Queensland will reintroduce a landfill levy, joining New South Wales, ACT, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia who already have levies in place.

What do levies mean for sustainability and why are they necessary?

A landfill levy is a tax applied to waste types by weight, that is designed to incentivise waste generators to reduce general waste, and increase diversion through recycling. Governments also use landfill levies to fund environmental and sustainability programs to improve waste management.

Queensland’s Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, in announcing the levy said, “Reintroducing a waste disposal levy is part of our broader strategy to improve waste recycling and recovery and support jobs growth. Our local councils will play a key role in helping their communities reduce waste and increase resource recovery.”

How do levies work?

A levy is added to the tipping fee, or gate fee, at landfills to increase the cost of disposal of general waste, and encourage diversion as a more economically viable option.

It is usually charged by weight and depending on the state, may be priced according to point of origin (New South Wales), landfill destination (Victoria) or waste type (South Australia, Queensland, ACT). The three broad waste landfill waste types are:

  • Municipal solid waste
    Also known as household rubbish, this is general waste from kerbside collection bins. Items in this bin are not recyclable and include waste types like used nappies, Pyrex™ glassware, and ceramics. The high levels of organic matter, like food, in kerbside waste bins means this is also called putrescible waste.
  • Construction and demolition
    This waste stream is generated by demolition and building activities including excavations, road and rail construction and maintenance, and home and building renovations, and is also considered dry waste.
  • Commercial and industrial
    This category consists of the waste generated from the general waste bin used by institutions and businesses such as schools, restaurants, retailers and manufacturers.

Bulk Hard Waste Collection Metal Junk Ewaste (1)

How levies benefit communities

One of the key goals of a levy is to provide funding for waste reduction efforts by government, industry and communities. Some examples of waste management programs include:

  • upgrading kerbside recycling systems
  • collecting uncommon, hazardous waste streams
  • raising awareness and education about recycling
  • major studies into waste minimisation
  • supporting community projects

The Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) in its examination of the “Economic effects of the South Australian solid waste levy” noted that nine jobs are created for every 10,000 tonnes of waste recycled, compared to three jobs for landfill. The same report noted that more recycling and less waste to landfill resulted in more jobs being created in the economy.

The National Waste and Recycling Industry Council (NWRIC) in a statement said that the imposition of a landfill levy also generates funds which can be reinvested into infrastructure planning, education, enforcement of standards and grants for innovation and research.

“Effective planning for waste management and recycling infrastructure will ensure the public is not adversely affected by these essential services – while landfill levy revenue could be used to fund new and ongoing enforcement initiatives,” said NWRIC Chairman Phil Richard.

Cleanaway bins at a festival

How to be levy ready

While landfill levies are shown to deliver triple bottom line benefits of economy, environmental and social, the cost is born by waste generators including businesses, and rate payers. The key to reducing the impact of the landfill levies is the reduce the weight of general waste by maximising diversion.

Paper and cardboard, plastic containers and glass bottles, steel and aluminium cans, and milk cartons that are all clean of food and dry of liquids are the best items to put in the recycling bin.

Supermarket food waste

Divert food waste

Food and liquids are very heavy so diverting these with an organics recycling service can seriously reduce the weight of your general waste bin. Almost $20 billion worth of food goes to landfill every year even though food and organics have incredible potential for recovery.

Households can consider starting a compost heap or taking food scraps to a local community garden if a food and green organic waste (FOGO) collection service is not available.

Exploring e-waste

Find collection points for other waste streams

E-waste, soft plastic and other items like paint, mattresses and scrap metal are perfectly recyclable, just not in the commingled recycling bin. You can search online to find collection services or drop-off points in your area, such as TechCollect’s e-waste drop off, REDcycle’s soft plastic collection service in major supermarkets, and paint drop-off points.

What more can you do?

For businesses, a waste audit can help divert even more waste from landfill by identifying new waste streams, as Unilever Tatura, GPT and Argo Café discovered.

Introducing a new bin to address specific materials in your waste stream can actually work out more cost effective especially if rebates are available. By diverting heavy, wet material like food scraps to an organic service, and common recyclables like glass and cardboard, businesses can save a huge amount on the general waste bill.

A comprehensive waste management plan can help businesses improve their landfill diversion and sustainability rates, while pinpointing business inefficiencies. Putting business waste in its place can also generate long-term savings, reduce environmental impact and increase customer satisfaction.

If you’re looking to improve your business‘ waste processes, a waste audit is the first step. Cleanaway offers a no obligation waste assessment to help you in your journey towards making a sustainable future possible.