The resources sector is working towards achieving waste management and resource recovery targets
Disposal and recovery
According to the Recycling and Waste in Queensland 2020 report, approximately 1.6 million tonnes (or 52%) of the 3.1 million tonnes of commercial and industrial waste reported in 2019-20 (which includes contributions from the resources sector) was recovered. This is an improvement on the 49.8% recovery rate reported in 2018–19. To put these values into context, a summary of waste recovered and disposed for other headline waste sources is provided below.
Source: Queensland Government (2021) Recycling and Waste in Queensland 2020
Queensland Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy
In July 2019, Government released the Queensland Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy underpinned by a waste disposal levy to increase recycling and recovery across the State. The Government is seeking to drive a circular economy where waste is avoided, reused and recycled to the greatest extent possible (i.e. maintain the value of waste as a resource for as long as possible).
The Strategy sets targets for Queensland to achieve the following by 2050:
- 25% reduction in household waste;
- 90% reduction of waste is recovered and does not go to landfill; and
- 75% recycling rates across all waste types.
The Strategy will be accompanied by a series of action plans that detail the implementation of the strategic priorities, including timeframes and responsibilities. QRC will work with Government and the resources sector to develop appropriate measures to further reduce landfill waste and increase recycling and reuse in order to reach these targets.
Queensland Waste Levy
On 1 July 2019, the Government commenced a waste levy, as introduced under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011, across 39 local government areas across Queensland. This accounts for approximately 90 per cent of Queensland’s population where the majority of waste is generated and disposed. The waste levy aims to:
- Reduce the amount of waste going to landfill;
- Encourage waste avoidance;
- Provide a source of funding to enable better resource recovery practices;
- Provide certainty and security of feedstocks for advanced technology; and
- Facilitate industry investment in resource recovery infrastructure.
The levy for general waste will start at $75 per tonne with Category 1 and 2 regulated waste at $155 and $105, respectively. The rates listed will increase by $5 per year through to the 2021/22 financial year.
Regulated waste is a type of waste that requires a higher level of management to prevent harm to the environment or human health.
QRC worked with Government from 2013 on reform to shift the operation of the regulated waste framework and categorisation under the then Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 (refer to 2019 publication) from a binary system (i.e. regulated or not) to a risk-based approach (e.g. high, medium or low risk). This later dovetailed into a program to inform the new waste levy and strategy in 2018.
Legislative amendments to the Regulation, on 5 October 2018, subsequently afforded a pathway for waste generators, including the resources sector, to test and categorise waste based on their physical (e.g. solid or liquid) and chemical properties having regard to relevant thresholds. There are two categories of regulated waste – Category 1 (highest risk) and Category 2 (moderate risk). Where waste properties fall below the thresholds for Category 2 regulated waste and is of low risk, this material is deemed not-regulated waste or general waste.
From the perspective of the resources sector, the change to the regulated waste framework now allows for:
- New options to reuse and recycle material no longer classified as regulated waste (i.e. general waste); and
- Scale the handling, management and/or disposal of different regulated waste categories accordingly (as opposed to managing a low risk waste as if it were a high risk).
QRC is seeking to work with Government to develop guidance material in relation to the handling, management and disposal of different regulated waste categories.
End of Waste framework
The End of Waste framework under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 allows the resources sector and other waste generators to reuse or transfer waste material to a third party for beneficial purposes (i.e waste becomes a resource). Examples of where waste from the resources sector can be beneficially used rather than being disposed to landfills, include reuse of:
- Biosolids (organic matter recycled from sewage) for site rehabilitation;
- Reuse of treated water (produced water) sourced from coal seam gas wells for crop irrigation; and
- Reuse of drilling muds for rehabilitation of construction pads.
Where the use of a waste as a resource has been demonstrated to have benefits through sustainable use and negligible environmental risks, Government may give consideration to developing an End of Waste Code. This document states the conditions for the use of the resource.
Where there is interest to test the feasibility for a waste to become a marketable resource but no Code has been developed, waste producers can apply for an End of Waste Approval. This instrument is issued by Government on a trial basis for reusing waste as resources and is only extends for the length of time required to undertake the trial. The Government then considers the findings of the trial (e.g. benefits, sustainability, environmental impacts and environmental best practice) prior to deciding whether a Code should be developed for that waste type.