WA UPDATE: The Importance (Or Not) Of Waste


Tuesday, 7 June 2011

There has been talk around political circles that waste management in Western Australia may well get its day in the sun, including word that the Liberal Party meeting room has discussed waste management and considered it important. This is a Very Big Thing, as Adam Johnson explains.

The WA State Budget handed down on 19 May puts this into context. First, there is no new money to come to waste management. The $9 million pledged for grants from Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Account is the same as the $9 million budgeted for the current year. Less than half of the current $9 million will be spent, compared with $11.4 million in 2009/10. So, perhaps not that important.

Attempt to track the landfill levy as it trickles through Government, and the importance of waste management in WA becomes even clearer. For a levy set at $28/tonne (MSW and C&I), the punter pays $30.80/tonne after GST, or over $43 million from MSW and C&I generators in 2009/2010. An additional amount is collected from C&D generators.

The biggest beneficiary is the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). Of the $43 million collected, $27 million goes to the DEC for general programs unrelated to waste management. An additional amount also goes to the DEC to run the waste program. Reading between the lines of the 2009/2010 Waste Authority Annual Report and the State Budget, this amount appears to be $3.5million. The actual amount could not be clarified on request. At $3 million, the DEC’s overall take is an estimated $30 million, about 10% of the total DEC budget.

The next beneficiary is the landfill operator: landfill operators automatically keep 8% of the levy collected, equating to over $3.1 million in 2009/2010.

Then comes the State Government through its proportion of GST revenue (reported to be 72% of that collected in WA), or $2.8 million with the remainder of the GST revenue (about $1.1 million) going interstate.

It is only after this long line of outstretched hands that funding is actually available to deliver program on the ground. This would be the $9 million in the State Budget, much of which is already allocated: over $3 million per year to manage Household Hazardous Waste, $2 million for “Partnership Funding” to schools, Keep Australia Beautiful Council (a part of the DEC in WA) and waste industry peak bodies, and $0.5 million for e-waste recycling. Whilst useful, these are not contributing wholesale improvements in resource recovery.

Not bad for a levy that, when introduced to Parliament in 1997 by the then Coalition government, was explained as having “the potential to fund projects which will significantly impact on the 2.3 million tonnes of solid waste generated by Western Australians each year”. It is not. Instead it funds landfills and the department charged to reduce waste.

As pointed out by WA’s Shadow Minister for Environment, the government is now “torn between the need to reduce landfill waste and the need to fund basic services like land care and air quality protection”. So it is true; waste is important. Unfortunately, it seems for all the wrong reasons.

Adam Johnson is the CEO of Perth’s Western Metropolitan Regional Council. The views expressed in this article, however, reflect his personal opinion and not those of the WMRC.

Source – Inside Waste

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