NSW waste levy overhaul needed to achieve targets: Auditor

Administrative shortcomings in NSW’s waste levy regime may be putting waste diversion and recycling targets at risk.

NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said in a report last week that although the levy helps divert waste from landfills, a lack of timely data means recycling targets for municipal solid waste and commercial and industrial waste “are unlikely to be met”.

Her report says the NSW government has collected almost $4 billion from the waste levy in the past five years but has reinvested only a third of this money into waste and environmental programs.

Ms Crawford also said that no thorough investigation of whether the levies are set at the optimal level has been undertaken since 2009.

“Currently, a higher levy applies to LGAs in the Sydney metropolitan area and the Hunter, Newcastle and Illawarra regions … [while] a lower levy applies to LGAs in the north-east coast and LGAs immediately west of Sydney,” she said.

“Most LGAs do not pay a waste levy. The current rationale for why particular LGAs pay the waste levy and others pay a lower levy or none at all is not as clear and objective as it could be.”

The report also said the absence of a formal strategy to guide waste infrastructure investment “limits the State Government’s ability to develop a shared understanding between planners, councils and the waste industry about waste infrastructure requirements and priorities”.

Among other things, it recommends that the Environment Protection Authority – which administers the levy – should establish a schedule for reviewing settings and improve the timeliness of its reporting of environmental outcomes and compliance activities.

Click here to read the final report.