Ipswich City Council is set to take all recycling to landfill. Picture: Patria Jannides
Ipswich City Council is set to take all recycling to landfill. Picture: Patria Jannides

State’s waste levy comes forward a year

THE Palaszczuk Government is bringing its waste levy forward, with the new tax to be included in the looming Budget.

Treasurer Jackie Trad has revealed the levy, which was going to start on July 1, 2019, will begin this coming financial year instead.

It comes as the Government battles to convince Ipswich City Council to stop dumping recyclables into general waste.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch insisted she did not know the council had stopped recycling waste a month ago.

But she admitted bringing the levy foward would not automatically mean Ipswich City Council would start its recycling program up again.

Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli says recycling was no longer affordable. File picture
Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli says recycling was no longer affordable. File picture

The Ipswich council has today defended its decision to dump all of its recyclable waste in landfill following China's decision to restrict the salvageable contents it would accept.

Mayor Andrew Antoniolli told ABC Radio today he was not happy about the decision, but said recycling was no longer affordable for taxpayers.

He also admitted the council had been dumping the yellow bin contents in landfill for a month before telling ratepayers on Wednesday.

It comes as the Local Government Association of Queensland has warned Ipswich will be the first of many councils in Queensland to go down this path amid concerns about the cost of recycling.

LGAQ chief executive Greg Hallam said Ipswich would be the first of many councils in Queensland "to go down this path" and suggested proceeds from the State Government's new waste levy could help solve the problem.

"We're not just throwing our hands up and saying … it's all too hard," he said.

"We have a medium to long term solution and that is to take the proceeds of the waste levy and to build five or six state of the art zero waste, waste-to energy plants in Queensland."

Queensland's Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch blamed both the Federal Government and the former LNP state government for Ipswich council's decision to dump recyclable waste in landfill.

Despite both Victorian and NSW governments financially helping its local councils to dispose of recyclables after China placed restrictions on imported waste, Ms Enoch said it was her federal counterparts who needed to act.

"The decision of China is at a federal level. Where is the federal leadership on this? It is affecting all of Australia," she told ABC Radio on Thursday.

Ms Enoch said NSW and Victoria were able to assist with millions of dollars because they had money tucked away from a waste levy, and that Queensland's waste levy was abolished by Campbell Newman's government, which ended in 2015.

"Those state governments have had a waste levy in place for some time and they have been able to draw on those funds," she said.

As revealed by The Courier-Mail yesterday, all recyclables placed into Ipswich City Council's yellow-top bins will now be sent to landfill, as China's ban on accepting certain foreign materials begins to bite.

The council was recently notified by its recycling contractors that it would have to pay an extra $2 million each year for recycling to continue - which could have led to a rate rise of between 1.5 and 2 per cent.

Ipswich Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said the national recycling system had broken sooner than expected and said the city needed to move forward.

"I have spoken personally to the minister on this issue, and made it clear that we've been backed into a corner on recycling," he said.

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The contamination level of Ipswich's recyclables has also been branded as unacceptably high, with about half of everything collected from the yellow top bins deemed to be non-recyclable.

For recycling to continue, the council would need to reduce by half a number of waste items, including pizza boxes, disposable nappies and dirty tissues.

Residents have been urged to continue to sort their waste as per normal, with green waste expected to still be recycled.

Deputy Mayor Wayne Wendt said the focus on recycling would "now be very much about waste reduction".

"Everybody plays a role in the protection of our environment, and ways to reduce waste now become even more important to our daily lives," he said.

"Under the current and previous rates of contamination waste experts advise it would be almost unachievable even with the best and well-intentioned community education program to lower the rate of contamination to acceptable levels.

"In a nutshell, this means we were left with no other choice but to send yellow lid bin contents to landfill."

The decision from Ipswich Council to send recyclable waste to landfill follows China's ban on accepting 24 types of recyclables and solid waste in January from foreign countries, including Australia.

It is understood the China ban is anticipated to have a significant impact on 24 councils that make up 86 per cent of the state's population.

Ipswich will now be issuing tenders by mid-way through this year for waste-to-energy projects in a bid to make a portion of the city's energy environmentally friendly.

"We want to become a leader in the waste-to-energy space, which will in the medium to long-term provide us with an environmentally-friendly energy source, jobs and a better economic outcome for Ipswich," Cr Antoniolli said.

"We've actually been looking at waste as an energy source for some time, and this gives us the ideal opportunity to be ahead of the game in that space."

Brisbane City Council's field services chairman Peter Matic said there would be no change to the city's recycling program.

"We will continue recycling because we are committed to keeping Brisbane clean, green and sustainable," he said.

"A total of 93 per cent of materials placed in Brisbane yellow-top bins are able to be recycled, due to an extremely low contamination rate, unlike other local government areas.

"More than 80 per cent of goods collected from kerbside recycling are processed right here in Brisbane.

"Paper and glass are recycled at processing plants in Brisbane, including glass processed into asphalt, and no goods are stockpiled."