All recycling placed in yellow bins will now be dumped in landfill by Queensland’s Ipswich City Council, with the local government saying it is too expensive to continue.
Mayor Andrew Antoniolli said Ipswich was the “latest domino” to fall victim to the recycling import ban imposed by China, which previously accepted up to one million tonnes a year from Australia.
Contractors were asking the council for about $2 million more each year as the result of the import ban, representing up to 2 per cent more in charges.
Cr Antoniolli said the new regulations required co-operation from all levels of government.
“I have spoken personally to the [environment] minister on this issue, and made it clear that we’ve been backed into a corner on recycling,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Environment Minister Leanne Enoch said she was disappointed with the council’s decision.
She said the issue would be discussed at a meeting of state and territory environment ministers next week.
“China’s decision is a national issue for our waste and recycling industry and the federal government needs to show leadership to deliver a national solution,” Ms Enoch said.
Liberal National Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the Labor council and state government had let the community down.
“[Premier] Annastacia Palaszczuk and her local Labor members have stood by and done nothing while their comrades at Ipswich City Council stop collecting household recycling,” Ms Frecklington said.
“The local community is saying no to more super-dumps but now Labor councillors have adopted a policy to literally put more rubbish into landfill. It doesn’t make sense.”
Contamination in yellow bins was also to blame for price hikes, Ipswich Council said.
Deputy Mayor Wayne Wendt said contamination rates have doubled since an ABC Four Corners program earlier this year focused on interstate waste dumping in and around the city.
“Under the current and previous rates of contamination waste experts advise it would be almost unachievable even with the best and well-intentioned community education program to lower the rate of contamination to acceptable levels,” Cr Wendt said.
“In a nutshell, this means we were left with no other choice but to send yellow lid bin contents to landfill. Importantly, it is worth repeating that this does not change the way household rubbish is collected. There will still be the same number of trucks, the same number of staff, and we anticipate a similar level of waste.”
Cr Wendt said the focus now would be about waste reduction. Residents should continue to sort their waste as normal, with red bins collected weekly and yellow bins fortnightly.
The Four Corners report in part led to the state government moving earlier this year to reintroduce a waste levy for Queensland in an effort to curb dumping from other states, particularly NSW.
Proposed waste-to-energy scheme
Ipswich Council will move by mid-year to implement a waste-to-energy scheme to offset the impact of recyclable material being sent to landfill, however waste collection would continue as normal, including yellow-top bins.
“While it is fair to say the national recycling system broke sooner than we expected, Ipswich has been looking to the future. We’re making sure we tackle this issue head on,” Cr Antoniolli said.
“We want to become a leader in the waste-to-energy space, which will in the medium to long-term provide us with an environmentally-friendly energy source, jobs and a better outcome for Ipswich.”
He said Ipswich had been looking to waste as an energy “for some time”, and the current crisis was the “ideal opportunity to be ahead of the game”.
It’s not known if any other Queensland councils are considering stopping recycling programs.