Waste industry reform for a circular economy

Invest in a comprehensive review and reform of waste and resource recovery in close collaboration with Ipswich City Council, to deliver a waste industry transformation plan that minimises community impacts and creates new economic opportunities for Ipswich.

About the project

The Ipswich local government area is the fastest-growing region in Queensland. Our 2019 population growth rate was 4.1%, well above the state and national average (1.7% and 1.5% respectively). Today, more than 222,300 people call Ipswich home however, by 2041, the population of Ipswich will grow by 336,000 (150%) to over 558,000.

As our city faces this enormous growth challenge, we are also faced with the complex burden of leading national, state and local policy and regulatory reform to address and mitigate the impacts of the waste industry’s performance and management practices on suburban quality of life and residential amenity, due to: odour, dust and fires as well as the costly impacts to our local transport network. The waste industry has expanded significantly in Ipswich over time through landfill developments, without due consideration of the impacts, or the future outlook of South East Queensland and Queensland waste policy and strategy.

While the waste sector is largely privatised in Queensland, the effective oversight of waste is a government issue. Queensland’s waste industry is poorly performing against community expectations and, in order for the industry to transform into a more effective, sustainable and productive sector; an urgent need exists for collective government intervention.

Stronger collaboration and investment

In order to address these complex challenges, it is critical that the State Government collaborates with the City of Ipswich. Joint development of regulatory and policy frameworks will support the development of a waste industry transformation plan in Ipswich.

The establishment of a joint waste taskforce will enable cross-governmental collaboration to develop strategic and integrated solutions to solve complex waste issues through a range of actions and new mechanisms that will enable both Council and the Queensland Government to achieve long term, sustainable solutions to the ongoing impacts on residents from composting and landfill facilities in Ipswich. It will also address emerging industry issues and market failures and identify opportunities to shift the paradigm from waste being a linear resource to be discarded; to one where it is a resource that is re-used (circular).

The State Government’s introduction of a Waste Levy has set in place both the economic drivers and the platform for a paradigm shift that recognises waste as a resource to be re-used (circular) and not simply discarded in landfills (linear).

In order to leverage this opportunity, reinvestment of the Waste Levy to develop and mature the waste and resource recovery market in Ipswich is required (per the approach taken in other states). This must be supported by the delivery of strategic market support and policy environment to enable remanufacturing and growing the demand for recycled materials, which will lead to jobs growth throughout Queensland.

Waste industry reform for a circular economy

Better data

In 2017-18, around 58% of Queensland’s and 73% of South-East Queensland’s waste was disposed of in Ipswich landfills (not including green waste). While the introduction of the waste levy has deterred 60% of interstate waste being dumped in Queensland, Ipswich is still bearing the brunt of the burden on behalf of all Queenslanders.

Transparency is key to building trust and access to near real-time industry and government waste data will better inform stakeholder perceptions of industry performance and enable evidence-based and more responsive policy to be formulated. The establishment of an accessible waste and resource recovery data portal would greatly enable this.

To achieve this, the Queensland Government should establish robust and timely data collection and analysis processes and improve transparency by publishing near real-time waste and resource recovery data in an open portal. A lack of reliable and quality data impedes local government planning and decision making, inhibits industry development and acts as a barrier to future investment decisions. An urgent review of data quality and standards is required along with the development of clear data governance parameters to ensure data accuracy.

Industry development, jobs and pathways

The national Waste and Resource Recovery industry is worth $15.5 billion and provides 11,835 jobs to Queenslanders and $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. In 2016 a mere 1.3% of Ipswich residents were employed in the Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services industries (ABS). Investment in learning pathways to develop skills and support local jobs will better enable Queensland to achieve zero waste targets.

Through the joint taskforce, a review of the current funding model should identify local investment opportunities to redistribute the waste levy, proportionate to the volumes of waste disposed of in Ipswich.

The establishment of a market development agency and the investment in a feasibility study for a Circular Economy Centre of Excellence in Ipswich, will further deliver on the State Government’s goal to minimise landfilled waste and provide employment opportunities in emerging STEM industries and advanced manufacturing.

The World Economic Forum has estimated the value of a circular economy in Australia could be up to $26 billion per year by 2025 and would contribute significantly to reducing our emissions.

Support regional planning

South East Queensland requires a strategic waste futures plan that considers the current and future infrastructure requirements and accurately identifies both market demand and supply. State Government support for the COMSEQ Waste Management Plan is required; along with a commitment to provide greater certainty to the city and residents of Ipswich, other local government areas and the waste industry through an infrastructure investment plan.

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