NSW councils cry foul over state waste levy

Councils have criticised the NSW government for failing to inject billions of dollars raised from the waste levy into recycling efforts.

At a waste summit in Sydney ahead of the March 23 state election, councils called on the government to invest 100 per cent of the more than $2.1 billion set to be raised over the next four years through the waste levy to put NSW on-track to a circular economy.

A global crackdown on offshore waste processing signalled by China’s National Sword Policy means offshore processing of waste is no longer sustainable and Australia must focus efforts onshore, Cr Linda Scott, president of  the new NSW local government body LGNSW told the summit.

“Australia really can’t continue to rely on sending waste overseas. We must have sustainable local solutions to manage all our own waste, all 50,000-plus tonnes we gen in NSW each day,” she said.

The summit, attended by environment minister Gabrielle Upton, deputy opposition leader Penny Sharpe and Greens’ environment spokeswoman Cate Faerhmann, is part of the Save Our Recycling campaign, which is calling on NSW to increase the 16 per cent of the levy currently invested in recycling efforts more than five-fold.

The levy is set to bring $727 million to the NSW Government in the 2019-20 financial year, according to Cr Scott, but despite this, the State Government has only committed $802 million of this revenue over nine years to waste management.

The $727 million in revenue generated each year by the levy should be used to focus efforts on boosting local recycling and waste solutions, she said.

A renewed focus on onshore processing of waste would be good news for the economy, she argued, with the potential to create 25,000 jobs nationwide over five years.

Ms Faerhmann backed the call for the waste levy to be reinvested, saying that the anticipated $2.21 billion set to be raised over four years could dramatically improve waste management.

“Nothing short of a radical overhaul of NSW waste management is needed. The goal should be a circular economy and we need to be taking bold steps now if we’re going to achieve it,” she told the summit.

But Ms Upton said using 100 per cent of the waste levy to boost recycling would inevitably see other public services axed and tackling the waste crisis wasn’t as simple as diverting funds.

“The money from the waste levy collected in NSW is already being used in other ways across the community,” she said.

“What are we going to cut across services in the community if we are going to dedicate 100 per cent of the waste levy to waste and recycling?”

Deputy opposition leader Penny Sharp said Labor would focus on promoting partnerships between environmental groups and government if elected.

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