12 April 2023
Proposed amendments to Queensland's waste legislation will enact circular economy principles and product stewardship schemes, and establish a framework for better defining what is and is not waste.
The Waste Reduction and Recycling and Other Legislation Amendment (WRROLA) Bill, tabled in the Queensland Parliament in February, proposes a number of changes to the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (Qld) (Waste Act) and the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act).
The proposed amendments will define circular economy principles, and insert them as objectives in the Waste Act. This will strengthen the consideration of these principles in deciding what is and is not waste for the purposes of the Act. The inclusion of circular economy principles in the Waste Act will also ensure that the concept of 'circular economy' is included in the state's waste management strategy and local government strategic planning for waste. The amendments also seek to reflect the outcomes of last year's review of the efficacy of the waste levy and the End of Waste Code. This review identified the potential need for a mechanism outside the End of Waste Code or approval for determining whether or not something is a waste. The WRROLA Bill seeks to address this by:
The amendments will also enact the state government's intention to remove the clean earth levy exemption. At the moment, the disposal of 'clean earth', being earth that is not contaminated with waste (such as pieces of concrete, ceramics or bricks) or hazardous contaminants, is exempt from the payment of the waste levy.
If passed, from July 1, 2023 the disposal of any 'clean earth' at a landfill or waste facility will require payment of the waste levy at the general rate per tonne. However, the exemption will still apply to landfill and waste facility operators who use that material for the good operation and maintenance of the site.
The WRROLA Bill proposes broader powers for compliance action by the Department of Environment and Science (DES) in resource recovery areas (RRA).
Currently, DES has the power to revoke the RRA declaration over the area if the area does not satisfy the requirements for an RRA, or where there is landfilling or certain excess stockpiling. The amendments will give DES additional powers to amend or suspend an RRA declaration to investigate or monitor the site's activities.
The WRROLA Bill also proposes the following:
Prospective and current investors in the circular economy processes and products should be reassured by this further commitment by government to these principles and the promotion of better consideration of the repurposing of various types of materials in the economy.
Businesses or individuals disposing of clean earth at a landfill or waste facility should be aware that from July 1, 2023, they will be required to pay the waste levy at the general rate per tonne for the disposal of that 'fill'.
Landfill and waste facility operators should consider whether clean earth can be used for the purposes of the operation and maintenance of the site so as to avoid attracting the levy.
The WRROLA Bill has been referred to the Health and Environment Committee and the committee's report is due on April 14, 2023.
If you have any questions about the proposed changes, please get in touch with a member of our team below.