Green initiative or green wash?
Over the past two years the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) have undertaken a strategic review of waste in Queensland.
The result of this extensive review was a blueprint for the future, titled Strategic Waste Strategy 2010-2020.
DERM appear to have listened, seemingly with only one ear, to business, industry, and the broader community, with the drafted State Government Landfill Tax (Waste Levy) legislation scheduled for introduction on 1 December 2011.
The Strategic Waste Strategy recommends the application of a levy, stating that it will provide:
- a price signal to encourage waste generators to change behaviour
- a source of funding to assist local government, business, and industry to establish better waste avoidance and resource recovery practices, and to improve waste management overall
- an incentive for industry investment into resource recovery infrastructure
- a disincentive for unnecessary landfill disposal
- a level playing field with waste disposal costs compared to other states
The Levy will apply broadly to commercial and industrial (C&I) waste, and construction and demolition (C&D) waste streams, including regulated waste, and contaminated and acid sulphate soils. The Levy will NOT apply to municipal solid waste (MSW) (i.e. household/ domestic waste, which accounts for more than 30% of waste generated in Queensland). This appears to have been a deal done for political expediency (i.e. support of local governments for the introduction of a levy) rather than sound environmental policy. This exclusion directly undermines the stated policy strategy and intent.
As a result it is a policy that directly taxes all commercial bona fide licensed and accredited timber recycling operations, while excluding recyclers of domestic household waste streams. Subsequently, this Levy now places other less environmentally sound building products at a distinct market advantage, particularly in the case of imported products where the processing is undertaken outside Australia. On some products it will result in shifting processing from local facilities, impacting local jobs, to offshore.
Despite the bureaucratic rhetoric, DERM's track record of failing to enforce unlicensed and illegal recycling operations, is likely to see this 'one size fits all' approach to improving environmental outcomes. For some industries this will result in the absolute opposite of intended strategic policy intent.
In fact the bill not only excludes any references to shutting down illegal operations it provides the State government with the legislative powers to recover the waste levy from them and see them continue to operate. Unfortunately this green washing by the Queensland Government sees more focus on revenue collection and in doing deals for political expediency than achieving long term positive environmental outcomes.
Over the past ten years Kennedy's have advocated an end to the crunch and dump of timber rich buildings and structures. Sending redundant timbers to landfill should be the very last option, not the first. It is important that government at all levels, together with business and the broader community, have in place protocols to manage and handle redundant timbers. Kennedy's have developed protocols in accordance with the National Timber Product Stewardship Group (NTPSG) for the inspection, assessment, handling, and processing of redundant timbers, including the environmentally safe, and compliant managing, of any chemically treated timbers and residual off cuts. A correctly structured waste disposal levy is just one of the ways to achieve positive environmental outcomes. It should NOT be a levy that penalises and punishes licensed and accredited recycling operators who have developed sound environmental practices.
Good governments listen to genuine industry concerns.
NTPSG - www.timberstewardship.org.au
DERM - www.derm.qld.gov.au