What We’ve Learnt from Tasmania’s Waste Levy Experience 

The Tasmanian Government introduced a levy on all waste sent to landfill across Tasmania on 1-Jul-22.  This is one of many initiatives in the Government’s Waste Action Plan to improve the recovery of valuable and re-usable materials, and minimise what resources are lost forever once buried in landfill. 

Did you know that prior to this a waste levy already existed in around half of Tasmania? 

All Cradle Coast and Northern Tasmanian local government landfills paid a levy of $5.50 and $7.50 per tonne respectively of waste disposed by councils and businesses.  It is a concept that has been used in parts of Tasmania for more than a decade and is widely adopted on the mainland. 

Money from these waste levies was used entirely to fund waste-reducing equipment and services, including in smaller rural communities that may otherwise have missed out. 

Example projects and services funded by the waste levy included: 

  • free hazardous waste recycling for batteries, light globes and electronic waste at Waste Transfer Stations
  • in-school education programs 
  • a subsidy on tyre disposal
  • financial grants for schools, communities and businesses implementing waste-reducing initiatives
  • illegal dumping clean-ups 
  • infrastructure and safety upgrades at waste transfer stations among many others. 

In Southern Tasmania where there was no landfill waste levy, the twelve Local Councils that collaborate in the Southern Tasmanian Waste Management Group contributed funds for education and awareness programs to reduce waste to landfill.  These funds were provided by individual Councils instead of from a dedicated landfill waste levy source. 

Experience with Tasmania’s regional waste levies showed that environmental and social reasons to reduce waste are strong motivations for some to change their behaviour and reduce landfill waste, but financial motivations are more important for others. 

Under a waste levy, businesses, councils and their communities who divert waste away from landfill by separating their recyclables, using FOGO or home composting, supporting re-use facilities such as salvage yards and Tip Shops, and taking advantage of Product Stewardship Schemes such as PaintBack and MobileMuster pay less than those who don’t. 

Doing the right thing by reducing waste to landfill is rewarded.  Councils and businesses that generate lower amounts of landfill waste have lower waste levy costs.  As an added reward, they also benefit from the waste-reduction services, education programs and facilities funded by those generating higher amounts of landfill waste. 

There is evidence that levies work.  In 2019/20, 38% of waste suitable for recycling or composting was diverted from landfill in North West Tasmania, an increase of 11% since 2016 aided in part by the growing range of recycling and resource recovery services funded by the levy, and by the financial disincentive that applies when large waste producers continue to send recoverable waste to landfill. 

The statewide waste levy introduced on 1-Jul-22 is set at $20 per tonne. It will increase to $40 per tonne after two years, and to $60 per tonne after a further two years ($60/tonne is the target average regional waste levy across Australia).  The transition period provides time for Tasmanian businesses and communities to modify their waste practices. 

The statewide levy will replace the voluntary levy arrangements that existed in some parts of Tasmania.  The Cradle Coast, Northern and Southern Tasmanian Waste Management Groups are looking forward to maintaining existing recycling waste services and seeing more recovery services introduced in more places under the statewide waste levy. 

The levy is one of several waste-reducing initiatives in the Tasmanian Government’s Waste Action Plan which includes a target of an 80% average recovery rate from all waste streams by 2030.  The Australian Government’s National Waste Policy is also investing in infrastructure and services to help meet waste reduction targets. 

With Tasmanian enterprises taking part in the Federal Government’s Recycling Modernisation Fund and with waste levy funds reinvested in more resource recovery infrastructure and services, Tasmania can dramatically cut its landfill waste and with less putrescible waste going to landfill, its methane gas volumes; and that’s of benefit to everyone. 

There is always more we can do to improve resource recovery and recycling in Tasmania and reduce what gets buried in landfill. 

For more information on ways to avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle in Tasmania visit the Waste Management page of Tasman Council’s website or www.rethinkwaste.com.au where you can also find advice and services for disposal of unwanted, bulky items such as tyres, white goods and mattresses. 

Thanks for being a good sort and making changes to reduce landfill waste – when we each do a little, together we can achieve a lot!