Australia

Fears Australian councils will dump recycling as Queensland moves to avert 'crisis'

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Queensland will fast-track a waste levy to stop councils cancelling their recycling programs, but other local government associations remain concerned about the future of recycling.

The Queensland government has announced it will fast-track a waste levy to head off a domino effect of councils cancelling their recycling programs.

Ipswich City Council said yesterday it plans to dump recyclable waste in landfill because it would cost $2 million a year to comply with China's tighter imported recycling regulations.

China is Australia's biggest market for recycling waste but since January it has restricted imports of Australian recyclables. This has been due to a high contamination rate, or presence of non-recyclable rubbish.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad announced on Thursday that the government would bring forward the reintroduction of the proposed waste levy, previously slated for July 2019, to help subsidise the programs.

Local Government Association of Queensland boss Greg Hallam told SBS News the proceeds of the waste levy would be used to build state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plants.

"The collapse of the China market meant [recycling] costs were going up 400-500 per cent ... A number of councils would have followed Ipswich."

"But we're now on a very different path to where we were yesterday ... It was the clear signal and sign we needed. We'll lead the nation [in waste management]."

Is a levy the answer?

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the situation was "appalling" and needed to be rectified, but reintroducing the waste levy was not the answer.

"The Palaszczuk government's knee-jerk decision to rush through a waste tax, with no details and no consultation, shows Labor is making it up as they go along," Ms Frecklington said.

"Let's be frank, the only place that has a waste problem, whether it is dumping recycling in landfill or interstate waste dumping, is Ipswich."

Gold Coast and Brisbane City Councils stated they were financially unaffected by China's restrictions.

'Flawed and not sustainable'

But throughout Thursday, local government associations around Australia expressed concern that other councils could follow Ipswich's example.

CEO of Victorian Local Governance Association Kathryn Arndt told SBS News that "the current business model of exporting our waste is flawed and not sustainable".

"There appears to be no sustainable solutions to waste management in Victoria and Victorian communities are now faced with this problem that we are talking about," Ms Arndt said.

She called on the Victorian government "to use the accumulated fund - known as the Sustainability Fund built from the Land Fill Levy which is a component of our annual rates charges and in turn - to explore and implement sustainable solutions to waste management".

President of Local Government New South Wales Linda Scott told ABC News that a number of councils were struggling to process recycling and funding was needed.

"This has been a really urgent, big problem around NSW," Ms Scott said.

"We hope [the affected councils] will be able to avoid this. We really need urgent support to develop new industries in NSW so that we can process our waste here in a sustainable way."

Additional reporting: Nick Baker

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