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Waste levy hike could encourage illegal dumping: LGA

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More rubbish may be illegally dumped on SA streets and footpaths because of increases to the solid waste levy, the Local Government Association has warned.

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The tax on sending waste to landfill rose from $62 per tonne to $76 per tonne for metropolitan areas at the beginning of this month, and will rise further, to $103 a tonne by 2019-20.

The Government collects the levy from councils as they send residential and other waste to landfill – councils pass on the cost to ratepayers through increased rates, or savings.

“We’re worried that as the levy continues to skyrocket it’s going to lead to more people dumping building and other waste in our communities, leaving ratepayers to pick up the tab for the clean-up,” LGA President and Mid Murray Council Mayor Dave Burgess said.

“This is especially the case for dangerous materials such as asbestos, which can’t be recycled and must go to landfill.

“What we’re seeing in Western Australia, where the landfill levy for building waste has increased 700% in the last two years, is that there’s been a significant increase in illegal dumping.”

Burgess said research commissioned by the State Government, LGA and others had demonstrated a levy rate in excess of $50 per tonne was “a net economic cost to the community”.

“South Australians might not realise that every time they take their bin out, the State Government is collecting tax,” he said, adding that the revenue from the levy was not being spent by the Government, but rather used to boost its budget bottom line.

“This is money which should be spent generating environmental and employment outcomes for communities, but is instead being stashed away to prop up the Government’s budget,” said Burgess.

“It’s sitting in a fund which currently contains $85 million, and is expected to grow to $145 million by 2019.”

However, Environment Minister Ian Hunter told InDaily the LGA was “as hopelessly conflicted on this issue as Steven Marshall – who called for an increase to the levy when he represented the waste industry”.

“While some forward-thinking councils such as Onkaparinga and Holdfast Bay innovate, and even turn a profit from their waste stream, here we have the body that purports to represent local government whining and scaremongering instead of doing some actual work for the benefit of its members,” said Hunter.

“I sincerely hope for the sake of its members the LGA can get its act together, step up to the plate, and seek to get a slice of the funding that is on offer for waste programs as a result of recent waste levy announcements.”

Hunter said he had today announced $5.4 million in funding over two years to support councils with household food waste recycling programmes and infrastructure for the recycling industry.

“This funding is in addition to $14.9 million invested by the government in 141 separate waste infrastructure projects over the past 12 years,” he said.

Burgess said the LGA had been disappointed by the Liberal Party’s “limited resistance” to the policy.

According to the LGA, councils paid $18 million for the disposal of solid waste in 2015-16 – this is expected to grow to $35 million a year by 2019/20.

Half of the revenue from the solid waste levy is collected to support the operations of the Environmental Protection Authority. Half is transferred to the Waste to Resources Fund.

InDaily has contacted the Liberal Party for comment.

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