How to Protect your Bottomline when the Waste Levy Arrives

Over the coming summer months, my small backyard will be filled with fallen vegetation and my next-door neighbours are undertaking some renovation work. We have discussed ordering a skip bin to take our waste which will be most likely ordered in late February.

The skip bin will then be delivered and filled with mixed green and construction and demolition waste and then picked up and taken to a transfer station. This waste will most likely reside on the waste transfer floor for a few days, before it is transferred to a landfill. By the time our waste is taken to landfill, it will be after the 4th of March and the Queensland Waste levy will be implemented.

Luckily for me, I will have ordered the skip bin pre-levy, so the cost of the skip bin will be reasonable. However, as the waste will be taken to landfill post-levy, the waste company I ordered the skip bin from will be forced to pay for the levy ($70 per tonne) which will be a heavy loss for the company.

This is a financially dangerous situation for all organisations (in both the private and public sectors) involved in the transportation and receiving of waste. Failure to adequately manage this situation means that your expenses in March 2019 could far exceed what you had envisaged. This however can be mitigated with good planning in the leadup to the levy being implemented.

Firstly, waste management staff need to be made aware of the changes to the recording of waste data. Yes, everyone knows the start date of March 4th however, do your staff really know what to do when this date occurs? Are the financial systems ready? Are the weighbridges ready to record the data? Do the site staff know what to do? Staff training is essential in the lead-up to this.

The skip bin analogy at the start of this article can be avoided with well thought out logistical management. This involves ensuring customers are not charged for the levy before March 4th however, are well notified of the incoming levy. Customers need to know that there will be an additional cost for their landfill disposal to ensure they can adequately accommodate for the increased costs.

More importantly, it will be necessary for all waste transfer stations to be cleared of waste during the weekend of March 2 and 3 with all stored waste transported to landfill. However, this will not be an easy process. Like many others in the waste industry, I predict that many customers (waste generators) will be rushing to get works finished before the levy is implemented. As a result, the volume of waste at transfer stations in the lead-up to March 4th will be much higher than usual. Thus, extra staff may be needed to manage this waste to ensure the floor is clean before the levy is implemented.

I have been asked by some in the waste industry if state agencies will be fairly relaxed in the first few weeks and errors will be accepted with regard to collecting levy revenue. It’s not uncommon for new systems to have teething problems, however, I have yet to ever witness the Treasury of any government miss out on revenue. Therefore, it’s important to start preparing for the levy this side of Christmas to ensure you are adequately prepared.

I fear for local governments that have unsupervised (thus unprotected) bin stations. It’s just too easy for an annoyed skip bin operator who failed to take the new levy into consideration when pricing a project, to feel the need to “illegally” use these bin stations. Having said that there may be some waste that could appear say 500 metres up the road from a private landfill to avoid paying extra levy fees. For instance, a 20 tonne truck will incur $1,400 in landfill levy fees…

It’s a time to be vigilant in your operations to avoid damage to your bottom line as a result of the waste levy.

Keiran Travers is a Director of Harbak and newly formed UTL Utilities. Both companies are providing management advice in relation to the Queensland Waste Levy. UTL Utilities provides infrastructure strategy, procurement, economic modelling and business operational advice in the fields of waste management primarily for the local government sector. Contact Kerian here.