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Council rejects politically "foolish" business waste collection fee

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The Adelaide City Council has overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to charge thousands of businesses for waste collection, reasoning that the move would be politically toxic.

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Councillors last night received the results of a new waste management regime trial involving 80 businesses along Melbourne Street in North Adelaide, which finished in late February.

According to council staff, the trial demonstrated that providing businesses with a general waste service without charging for it directly “is not sufficient to promote recycling, and entrenches an ongoing council exposure to the solid waste levy”.

The State Government’s solid waste levy is set to rise from $76 per tonne this financial year to $103 per tone in 2019/20.

The council’s administration estimates business waste disposal costs will increase by 22 per cent over the next two years if no changes are made (and assuming current levels of waste collection).

Under a proposed new model, between 3000 and 4000 businesses in the CBD and North Adelaide – which currently receive 140 litres of general waste collection and 240 litres of recycling – would have to pay a cost-recovery fee for all general waste.

Under the model, larger bins for organics and recycling, and their collection, would be provided without charge.

“Providing that free general waste isn’t sufficient to promote that diversion to recycling [and using] organics [bins],” the council’s associate director for sustainability Michelle English told last night’s committee meeting.

But South Ward councillor Alex Antic told the committee business owners would “go nuts, and they should” if the council forced them to pay for a service they currently get for free.

Describing the new model as “virtue signalling”, he told the committee it was “an impost we just can’t put on our ratepayers”.

“Businesses don’t have time to sort through rubbish,” said Antic.

“They will go nuts, and they should.

“Central Ward councillors will wear out their fingers typing apology [emails].”

Area councillor Natasha Malani agreed.

“I’m not going to be the one to tell them that now they’re going to have to pay for rubbish,” she said.

“The business sector aren’t really going to accept this proposition.

“It’s, culturally, [a] very sensitive target we’re looking to achieve.”

Reducing carbon emissions from city waste is a key pillar of the council’s carbon neutral strategy.

One of the “measures of success” described in the strategy is diverting at least 60 per cent of city waste away from landfill by 2020.

Waste disposal accounts for about five per cent – or about 40,000 tonnes – of carbon emissions from the CBD and North Adelaide.

Malani asked English, during the meeting, whether the proposed general waste fee would be competitive with that charged by commercial waste collection businesses.

But the associate director said she was unable to say how the fee would compare with commercial operations before a tender process clarified the value of the fee.

Fellow Area councillor Anne Moran suggested the council would recover no money at all if it charged too high a rate for general waste collection.

She added that she was uncomfortable with the “social engineering” inherent in the proposal.

“If we do want to revolutionise [waste management] I’d rather go the New York model and weigh the rubbish,” she said.

“It’s a foolish council politically that takes away something that’s already given.

“I have no stomach to reduce the red bins [which are] still the most important bin in businesses’ minds.”

South Ward councillor Phil Martin said collecting waste “is the most fundamental service that council can provide” and should be “a universal entitlement”.

Council CEO Mark Goldstone told the meeting the administration would take the councillors’ feedback into account and come back with an altered proposal.

Asked to provide evidence for the assertion that without charging for waste, there was not enough incentive to encourage businesses to recycle and use organics, a council spokesperson this morning referred InDaily to a July 2015 report by Deloitte. The report analysed the effects of the Government’s solid weight levy.

It reads: “A landfill levy is a key mechanism in internalising … externalities [such as greenhouse gas emissions and soil contamination], and has the effect of reducing volumes of waste to landfill from waste generators … while increasing volumes for recycling through making alternatives more price competitive.”

The spokesperson added that a previous Access Economics report estimated that there are 9.2 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes of waste recycled, whereas only 2.8 jobs for landfill.

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