Queensland’s overhaul of its waste management is not overlooking the vast potential for jobs creation and economic growth in its plans.
According to the new Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy released this week, for every 10,000 tonnes of waste that goes to landfill, it’s estimated that fewer than three jobs are supported, but more than nine jobs are created when that waste is reused or recycled.
Building the economic opportunity is one of three priority actions in the strategy, along with reducing the impact of waste in the environment and transitioning to a circular economy.
A key component of the government’s plans to spark the economic potential of waste management will be funnelling its newly implemented waste levy funds into infrastructure, research and development and new technologies that bolster the recycling, and resource recovery industries.
The levy on waste going to landfill came into effect on 1 July and is designed to “kick start” the state’s waste management transition, according to the Minster for Environment Leeanne Enoch.
Designed to curb the flow of garbage trucks coming from NSW, waste disposers are now charged $75 per tonne to put their rubbish in landfill. The levy is expected to generate $433 million during the next financial year.
The government has also flagged the potential of “waste precincts” as an efficient way to improve the waste industry. This would potentially see wastes from one process to be used nearby as a resource and feedstock for downstream processing.
The government plans to investigate how land-use planning and other mechanisms can support the creation of waste precincts and other facilities.
This relates to another goal in the strategy – to reduce long distance travel of waste.
Ultimately, the state government wants to take a “leading role” in the transition to a zero-waste society.
This involves transitioning to a circular economy. To help make this shift, the government is working to overcome the barriers to business waste recycling, improve the understanding of material flows across the economy and work with the relevant bodies to develop nationally consistent quality standards for product packaging, among other initiatives.
The government also plans to develop an energy and fuel from waste policy to “ensure that technologies deployed to produce fuels and recover energy from waste materials are appropriate and in the best interests of Queenslanders.”
The strategy has been praised by industry groups the Australian Council of Recycling with its chief executive officer Pete Shmigel calling it “the most innovative recycling ‘to do list’ in Australia.”
But the next step will be putting these big plans into action.
“The strategy, it’s Resource Recovery Industry Road Map, and new infrastructure funding go well beyond simply diverting material from landfill to fostering a real future-facing industry,” Mr Shmigel said.
“It’s about high-quality, high-viz jobs based on demand for recycled content products, as much as it is about trucks and tonnes. That is a great shift in approach.”
“But it’s one thing to win Origin on paper, and another thing to win it on the paddock.”
The organisation also welcomes the new levy arrangements for contaminated residuals from legitimate recycling and remanufacturing operations as “an important incentive for continued industry investment in Queensland.”
“To avoid unintended consequences, other states need to pursue parity in their levy approaches, including not punishing quality recyclers and recycled content product makers who are trying to add value and create jobs.”
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia also applauded the reintroduction of its waste levy.
“Over the last two years, there has been so much talk about what Australia needs to do to manage its waste and recover resources. Queensland has put its money where its mouth is by committing 70 per cent of levy funds back into industry, effectively using the levy as a tool to drive investment in a bid to grow our essential sector and build a much-needed domestic remanufacturing sector,” WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan said.
“Queensland has one of the highest generators of waste per capita and the lowest divertors of waste per capita; it has now taken real action to start making the structural shifts we need to create 9.2 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes we recycle, compared with the current reliance on disposal, which only creates 2.8 jobs.
“WMRR is urging the other states to take a leaf out of Queensland’s book.”