According to the Tasmanian Government’s submission to the Senate enquiry into the waste and recycling industry in Australia, the state generated over 636,000 tonnes of solid waste in the 2015-2016 year.
Just 35% was recovered for recycling or composting, and Tasmania does not have a legislated waste levy.
This has led to comparisons to the situation in Queensland, where the lack of a waste levy has been blamed for the Sunshine State becoming a dumping ground for interstate waste.
While the Bass Strait provides a physical barrier that makes it uneconomic to send truckloads of interstate waste to the Apple Isle, the absence of a waste levy makes it much more attractive to dump locally-generated waste rather than recycle it.
For example, the enquiry submission from plastics recycler Envorinex points out that in Victoria it costs $600 to dump four tonnes of highly-recyclable black poly pipe. In Tasmania the charge is a measly $40.
This leads to the ridiculous situation where, despite Envorinex offering to collect selected waste free of charge, major Tasmanian businesses still opt to have their waste collected by operators who simply dump it in landfill.
If there’s an upside to Tasmania’s cheap landfill, it’s that the Tasmanian Government submissions claim that “only a handful of isolated cases of illegal (landfill) activity are reported to EPA Tasmania each year”.
What disappoints Ecocycle Business Development Manager Daryl Moyle is what the government doesn’t say.
“Their submission is silent on whether levies have a role in determining the end destination of materials and on whether different incentives influence the quality and quantity of material collected for recycling,” he said.
“The Queensland experience was that, during the brief period when levies applied, recycling rates increased significantly, only to fall when the levy was removed.”
Mr Moyle supports many of the points made by Envorinex including their call that setting landfill levies should be done at a federal level, and that the collected levies be used to support diversion of waste to recycling streams – particularly those that provide true closed-loop recycling.
So, does Tasmania have Australia’s worst waste system?
“Arguably that gong may still belong to Queensland,” says Mr Moyle. “But that’s only because Bass Strait is the most expensive shipping route in the world. If not for that barrier, I think it would be a tie.”